Applying to medical school is undoubtedly stressful due to the many requirements applicants must fulfill. A foundational understanding of patient care is one of the fundamental requirements, essential for navigating the intricacies of this multifaceted field. Therefore, clinical experience is a crucial element for premed students, providing profound insights into healthcare as well as playing a transformative role in helping students make their medical school applications stand out.

So, read on as we explore various types of premed clinical experiences, highlighting their significance and how they contribute to the development of future healthcare professionals. 

What Is Clinical Experience?

Clinical experience refers to hands-on learning opportunities in healthcare settings where students directly engage with patients, healthcare professionals, and medical procedures. It provides practical exposure to the realities of the medical field, allowing students to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world scenarios.

Clinical experience is typically cultivated during and after medical school. However, it can also benefit premed students as it helps link academic learning with practical application. This experience provides valuable insights into patient care, nurtures essential skills like communication and empathy, and grants a firsthand understanding of the complexities of healthcare delivery. Moreover, it aids students in affirming their dedication to a medical career and guides their decisions regarding future specialization.

Aspiring healthcare professionals benefit significantly from the in-depth insights acquired through clinical experience, laying a foundation for their future roles as compassionate and competent medical practitioners.

What Is Considered Clinical Experience?

Clinical experience encompasses a variety of activities within the healthcare domain, providing hands-on opportunities for individuals to engage in and understand different aspects of the medical field. From hospital internships to medical scribes and home health aides, each offers a unique perspective on patient care, healthcare dynamics, and medical terminology. 

Hospital or Clinical Internships

Hospital internships are like hands-on adventures for premed students. Rather than simply learning in classrooms, these internships immerse premed students right into the heart of healthcare. They get to see how different parts of the hospital work and meet patients of different profiles.

During these internships, students get to help patients directly and learn how everyone in the hospital works together. Talking to patients and other healthcare workers teaches them to communicate effectively, be a good team player, and make informed decisions in a fast-paced working environment. The skills they pick up during these internships, such as communication and adaptability, set a strong foundation for them to become a great healthcare professional. 

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)

Being an EMT means assuming a vital role as a healthcare responder in emergencies. These professionals are the first ones on the scene, jumping into action to provide quick and life-saving medical care. They face all sorts of emergencies, from accidents to sudden illnesses, giving them a firsthand look at various situations.

EMTs don’t just watch from the sidelines – they actively engage in providing hands-on assistance to patients. They’re trained to figure out urgent medical needs, give initial treatments, and ensure patients’ stability before transferring them for further care at a hospital. This direct involvement helps EMTs understand the tough decisions they will have to make in emergencies.

Being an EMT requires special skills that can be learned only through real-life situations.  Quick decision-making is a big part of it – they must quickly decide how serious a situation is and what to do next. Crisis management is also crucial, meaning they must stay calm, prioritize tasks, and work well with other healthcare professionals. To summarize, being an EMT is all about being right there in the action, learning how to make tough calls, and growing into a skilled healthcare pro who can handle emergencies.

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

CNAs are also crucial team members in healthcare, actively helping patients with daily tasks and providing vital emotional support. Their responsibilities go beyond routine duties, gaining hands-on experience that gives them a profound understanding of the intricacies of healthcare operations.

A big part of a CNA’s job is helping patients with daily activities as well as serving as a link between patients and other healthcare professionals. Additionally, the emotional support CNAs provide is vital. Given the range of emotions experienced by patients throughout their healthcare journey, CNAs, with their empathetic approach, play a pivotal role in alleviating stress and contributing to the patient’s overall well-being.

Therefore, the hands-on experiences of a CNA are crucial to understanding healthcare dynamics. They see how different medical conditions affect patients and learn to adjust their care accordingly. This firsthand experience also highlights the interconnected nature of healthcare, stressing the importance of teamwork and communication within a healthcare team.

Medical Assistant

Within healthcare, the role of medical assistants is multifaceted, encompassing both administrative and clinical responsibilities. On the administrative front, they play a key role in managing essential tasks such as scheduling appointments, overseeing patient records, and facilitating communication within the healthcare setting. Simultaneously, on the clinical side, medical assistants are actively involved in patient care, assisting with daily activities. 

This practical engagement allows them to witness firsthand the intricacies of healthcare dynamics and the diverse needs of patients. By being directly involved in the care process, medical assistants gain valuable insights that extend beyond routine tasks, enriching their understanding of the broad healthcare landscape.

Moreover, this hands-on experience highlights the importance of teamwork, adaptability, and efficient multitasking in healthcare. Medical assistants find themselves at the intersection of various healthcare processes, learning to collaborate seamlessly with different professionals and adapt to changing situations. This exposure contributes to their development as versatile healthcare professionals adept at navigating the complexities of patient care effectively.


As a medical scribe, individuals focus on documenting patient interactions and facilitating smooth communication among healthcare providers. Their primary responsibility includes meticulously recording patient encounters and capturing essential details such as medical history, symptoms, and treatment plans. This precision in documentation plays a pivotal role in maintaining the accuracy and completeness of medical records, thereby enabling healthcare providers to dedicate their attention to direct patient care. Scribing also strengthens the individuals’ observational skills, cultivating the ability to discern essential details during patient interactions.

Furthermore, active participation in the healthcare workflow empowers individuals to recognize patterns in patient data, offering valuable insights for healthcare providers. This collaborative engagement cultivates teamwork, with individuals playing a supportive role in delivering high-quality patient care.

The role of a medical scribe is also deeply rooted in a comprehensive understanding of medical terminology, leading to professionals becoming proficient in the language used across various medical specialties. This proficiency facilitates effective communication among healthcare workers and establishes a crucial foundation for those who aspire to become physicians or nurses.


Clinical experience in hospice care primarily focuses on providing compassionate end-of-life support to individuals and their families, placing a strong emphasis on comfort, emotional support, and preserving dignity. Healthcare professionals in this setting elevate their emotional intelligence while navigating the complexities of emotionally charged scenarios. Cultivating empathy takes center stage, fostering a supportive environment that acknowledges each individual’s unique journey during their end-of-life phase.

This emphasis on empathy in hospice care yields benefits that go beyond the immediate situation, cultivating a compassionate and holistic approach to healthcare. The skills and attitudes developed during this experience, such as active listening and acknowledging emotional needs, can be applied in other healthcare contexts, enriching the overall healthcare system with a heightened dedication to patient-centered and empathetic care.

Home Health Aide or Caregiver

Lastly, home health aides and caregivers shoulder the responsibility of providing personalized care in patients’ homes. Their duties cover both traditional medical tasks and a focus on the patient’s holistic well-being. They assist patients with daily activities, monitor health conditions, and act as patient advocates, ensuring their needs are effectively communicated within the healthcare team. 

This non-clinical setting encourages a personalized approach, nurturing skills in patient advocacy and tailoring care according to individual preferences. The intimate connection between caregivers and patients promotes trust, emotional support, and companionship, enhancing the overall quality of life. Through this unique non-clinical experience, home health aides and caregivers acquire a nuanced understanding of medical care in a personalized context, contributing to their overall proficiency in providing comprehensive and patient-centered healthcare.

Is Shadowing a Doctor Considered Clinical Experience?

The term “clinical experience” refers to hands-on and practical involvement in healthcare settings, where individuals take direct responsibility for the patient’s well-being. Therefore, questions may arise regarding shadowing and whether it should be qualified as clinical experience, due to its observational nature and less direct involvement.


Indeed, shadowing a doctor is considered as a distinct category separate from hands-on medical experience. Yet, it remains a highly valuable experience since it allows individuals, especially premedical students, to observe and gain insights into the daily activities and responsibilities of healthcare professionals. While it involves a more passive engagement compared to the hands-on roles we discussed thus far, it provides a unique perspective on patient care, medical decision-making, and the overall functioning of a medical practice or hospital. During such experiences, students can witness various medical procedures, patient interactions, and interdisciplinary collaboration between healthcare teams, contributing to a deeper understanding of the complexities and challenges within the medical field. Additionally, it allows aspiring healthcare professionals to explore different specialties and gain clarity on their career goals.

Key Takeaways

Clinical experience, central to the premedical journey, offers a unique perspective on patient care and medical decision-making. Diverse clinical roles, from medical assistants to hospice care, foster a comprehensive understanding of healthcare dynamics, enhancing both medical applications and overall essential healthcare skills. On the other hand, shadowing, while more passive and therefore not typically considered clinical experience, provides crucial insights into the complexities of the medical field. 

Seize the opportunity to shape your medical career and explore the endless possibilities that await you at our medical school. Unlock your potential and embrace the future of healthcare with AUA!

Frequently Asked Questions

How to find hands-on clinical experience as a premed student?

You can seek opportunities at local hospitals, clinics, or healthcare facilities, connect with medical professionals, and explore volunteering or internship programs in order to gain hands-on clinical experience as a premed student.

Because the recommended number of clinical volunteering hours varies among medical schools, it’s advisable to check their specific requirements. However, it’s best to aim for a minimum of 100 hours of volunteering to enhance your application.

Is there a specific number of hours I should target for patient care experience?

Although there isn’t a set figure, target a minimum of 500 hours of patient care experience, including clinical volunteering. This showcases a significant dedication to and comprehension of healthcare environments, which aligns well with most schools’ typical requirement of 500 to 2000 hours of experience.