Experiential Opportunities

Admissions committees are interested in well rounded, broadly educated students. The classroom is only one component of the educational experience. A strong community service record and experience in a health-related field are important components of an application. Opportunities can be found through community involvement, medically related activities, undergraduate research, and campus organizations, as well as national and international exchange programs. Keep a journal of your experiences.

Health-related experience can be found by volunteering at local hospitals, hospice centers, community health clinics, rehabilitation centers, long term care and skilled nursing homes, etc. If you have never volunteered in a medical setting, an ideal place to begin is with your local hospital's volunteer program. Many organizations will expect a set time commitment  and may be required to obtain specific immunizations.

Shadowing, or volunteering, with an individual practitioner is another means of gaining experience/knowledge. You may want to approach your family practitioner or a doctor who has seen you previously as a patient. The experience may allow more one-on-one in-office exposure. In addition, your family doctor may be willing to recommend you to other colleagues who can offer additional opportunities.

*A listing on this page in no way endorses a program, it is simply a resource for students to explore

Shadowing is a passive experience; you are in the room with the physician and the patient, but you aren't interacting with the patient.  Many professional programs recommend or require shadowing hours because they want to make sure you know what you are getting into in your chosen profession.  They don't want to admit you into their program only for you to decide you actually don't like this particular health profession!  Unless your chosen professional program has a required amount of shadowing, you should aim for at least 40 to 50 hours spread over different locations, specialties, settings (urban rural), providers of different genders, and specialties (if your chosen profession has different specialties).  Shadowing does not count towards direct patient care experience.

  • For students thinking about applying to Osteopathic Medical Schools (DO programs), you should definitely shadow a DO!  You can find a comprehensive list of DO's in your area on the Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine website. 
  • Due to COVID-19, shadowing may be limited.  You have three options:
    1. In-Person Shadowing: Many offices are worried about the potential spread of COVID 19 and they don't have a lot of personal protective equipment (PPE) to go around.  To negate this you should walk into the office with a copy of your vaccination card, your own personal protective equipment (PPE), and a copy of your resume and let the front office staff know you are interested in shadowing one of their providers.  Hospitals are still probably going to say no, but smaller practices are more likely to say yes since they don't have the same restrictions.
    2. 1:1 Virtual Shadowing:  Offices that aren't open to in-person shadowing might be more open to the idea of allowing you to shadow virtually.  During this virtual shadowing session you wouldn't be sitting in with the provider and a patient, instead you would set up a Zoom call with the provider and ask them to review the patients they saw that day (why they came in, what their symptoms were, and the treatment provided) so you could get an idea of what their typical day is like.  Some of our students have also been able to sit in on telehealth appointments.  Remember, it never hurts to ask! 
    3. Group Virtual Shadowing: Many organizations have started to put together virtual shadowing webinars.  I've linked a few of these organizations below.  Please note, these organizations cannot guarantee that every medical school will accept these hours, but these livestreams could still be very helpful!

Volunteering is a very important aspect of your application because professional programs are looking for applicants with heart!  They want to see that you are selfless, compassionate and altruistic, which are all important aspects of working in the healthcare field.  Volunteering can also help you learn skills such as leadership, teamwork, and communication.  Remember, professional programs are looking for the quality of your experience over the quantity, so don't worry if you can't dedicate 20 hours a week to our your chosen organization!  You should really be trying to volunteer at least 10 - 15 hours a month on a consistent, long-term, basis (at least six months with each organization, but a year or longer is better).  Remember, your volunteering doesn't necessarily need to be health related!  You can volunteer at clinics, hospitals and nursing homes or you can volunteer with other organizations such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters, tutoring, Habitat for Humanity, homeless shelters, etc.  Just pick an organization you feel passionately about!

You can find health-related volunteer and shadowing opportunities at local hospitals, hospice centers, community health clinics, rehabilitation centers, long term care and skilled nursing homes, etc.  If you have never shadowed or volunteered in a medical setting, an ideal place to begin is with your local hospital's volunteer program.  Many organizations will expect a set time commitment  and may be required to obtain specific immunizations.  You can also volunteer and shadow with an individual practitioner.  You may want to approach your family practitioner or a doctor who has seen you previously as a patient. This experience may allow more one-on-one in-office exposure. In addition, your family doctor may be willing to recommend you to other colleagues who can offer additional opportunities.

Local Hospitals

Students are usually asked to make a commitment for the semester to volunteer for up to four hours a week.

For exposure to busier and more urban/diverse settings consider the 45 minute drive to Manchester or Concord:

You can also Google clinics, hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, dentists and physicians to find other local health-related settings in which to volunteer.

Local Opportunities

National Volunteer Opportunities

International Volunteer Opportunities

The following organizations provide opportunities for exposure to healthcare in a wide variety of settings.  A listing here in no way endorses a program, it is simply a resource for students to explore.

Online Volunteering Opportunities

Social distancing is making in-person volunteering opportunities difficult to find, but that shouldn't stop you!  There are plenty of organizations that could use online volunteers.  I have included a list below of volunteering opportunities you can do from home or your dorm room.

Direct Patient Care experience, or clinical experience, is also a very important part of your application!  Professional programs want to see that you have been working with patients for an extended period of time so they know you actually enjoy working with patients.  There are plenty of individuals who thought they wanted to work with people only to discover they don't like working with sick individuals and would prefer working in a lab and that's totally okay!  It's better to find out before you enter your professional program than during your clinicals. 

Some professional programs have a specific requirement for how many direct patient care hours you need prior to graduating, while others don't.  For example, the majority of PA programs require direct patient care hours ranging from 30 hours to 2500 hours (the average is 650 hours).  Most professional programs don't have a specific requirement though, they trust that their applicants are interested enough in the field of healthcare to gain patient experience without trying to meet a specific number.  I usually recommend trying to earn at least 200 hours of clinical experience prior to applying.

I have listed some of the more popular ways UNH students gain their direct patient care experience below.

Certified or Licensed Nursing Assistant/Aide

CNA/LNAs work under the supervision of a nurse, and since they have extensive daily contact with each patient, they play a key role in keeping the nurse up-to-date on vital information about the patients' conditions.  CNA/LNAs help patients with activities of daily living (bathing, grooming, toileting, eating, and moving), serve meals and help patients eat, life and move patients, take vital signs, maintain a clean and sanitized environment, facilitate patient care, communicate with the healthcare team and family members.  These positions provide direct patient contact and is a great way to earn your direct patient care hours, especially for those interested in PA programs and medical school.  Many nursing homes offer the training. Tech colleges are another source where training is offered. Do an internet search in your community for LNA/CNA courses.  

If you earned your LNA/CNA certification in a different state, you can transfer your license to New Hampshire by completing the "Application for Nursing Assistant License by Endorsement" form.  You do have to have worked as an LNA/CNA for at least 200 hours to be approved. 

*If you earn your LNA certification in New Hampshire, the state of New Hampshire might reimburse you for your LNA training!  You can find more information about that here. 

Dental Assistant

Dental assistants are important members of the dental team.  They assist during a variety of treatments including taking and developing dental x-rays, asking about medical history and taking blood pressure and pulse, help patients feel comfortable before, during and after dental treatment, provide patients with instructions for oral care following dental procedures, teach patients appropriate oral hygiene strategies, taking impressions of patients' teeth, etc.  Do an internet search in your community for dental assistant programs.  UNH's Professional Development & Training offers a Dental Assistant program.

Emergency Medical Technician

Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) are trained to respond to medical emergencies.  They provide assessments and treat emergency medical conditions.  Training includes airway management, trauma stabilization, CPR, anatomy & physiology, cardiac management, blood borne pathogens and extrication.  EMTs are responsible for primary treatment and transport of the sick and injured.  I have listed some local courses below:

NOTE: You only earn clinical hours when you are out on calls.  If you sit in the ambulance bay all day and you do not treat any patients, those hours do not count as clinical hours.

Emergency Room Technician

Emergency Room Technicians (ER Techs) are licensed EMTs (although some will hirer individuals with an LNA/CNA certification) who work in hospital emergency rooms/emergency department.  ER techs are responsible for assisting the doctors and nurses with emergency treatment of patients in the ER.  ER techs assist doctors and nurses with emergency treatment of patients in the ER.  They typically collect samples for lab analysis, gather patient information, monitor EKGs and heart rhythms, treat wounds, and assist doctors and nurses during procedures.  They may also conduct assessments of patients and basic management of medical, trauma, and environmental emergencies under the supervision of the doctor or nursing staff.  As an ER tech you would earn your clinical hours a little more consistently than as an EMT since you should be treating patients throughout your shift.  This is a great next step for students who have been volunteering as EMTs for a year or two!

Medical Assistant

Medical assistants perform various clinical tasks including assisting with the administration of medications and with minor procedures, performing an EKG electrocardiogram, obtaining laboratory specimens for testing, educating patients, and other related tasks.  Medical assistants typically work in physician's offices, clinics, chiropractor's offices, hospitals, and outpatient facilities.  Do an internet search in your community for medical assistant programs.  UNH's Professional Development & Training offers a Clinical Medical Assistant program.

Medical Scribes

Medical scribes are trained in medical documentation who assist the physician, shadowing them throughout their shift.  The primary function of a scribe is the creation and maintenance of the patient's medical record, which is done under the supervision of the attending physician.  The scribe performs a variety of tasks, including recording patients' histories and chief complaints, transcribing physical exams, ordering x-rays, recording diagnostic test results, and preparing plans for follow-up care.  This type of work can provide pre-medical students with excellent observational opportunities in a wide area of settings including doctor offices and emergency departments.  I have listed some of the more popular scribe training programs below

NOTE: Not every professional healthcare program will count scribing as clinical hours!  For example, the MCPHS Physician Assistant program DOES NOT accept scribing hours as patient care experience.

Patient Care Assistant

Patient Care Assistants (PCA) work with patients under the direct supervisor of other healthcare professionals such as doctors, physician assistants, and nurses.  PCAs typically help patients with daily living tasks such as bating, eating, and dressing as well as taking patients' temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration.  Occasionally PCAs will also assist with preparing medications, collecting specimens, monitoring patients, and recording treatments.  

Many skilled nursing facilities in New Hampshire do not require PCAs to have any prior certifications and will train you on the job.  

Patient Care Technician

Patient Care Technicians (PCT) are a vital part of the healthcare team.  They provide support for nurses, doctors, and other medical staff by caring for patients with physical and mental health concerns.  PCT's can work in hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities, and many more.  They typically work at the patient's bedside and take care of basic needs such as meals and hygiene, which is very similar to a CNA/LNA, but they also have a wider scope of practice due to additional training.  PCTs can also administer medications, draw blood for lab work, operate some medical monitoring equipment, begin or discontinue catheters, perform and manage wound care, remove stitches or staples, administer electrocardiograms, etc. 

Most facilities will require you to have an LNA/CNA certification, while some might train you on the job.

*One thing to keep in mind about PCAs and PCTs:  While officially PCTs are a step above LNAs/CNAs, there are many facilities that will use these titles interchangeably.  This means, that you can and will find some PCT positions that do not require an LNA/CNA certification, but you might also find a PCA position that does require an LNA/CNA certification.  Please keep this in mind as you are looking for these positions.

Patient Safety Attendant (Patient Sitter)

Patient Safety Attendants (PSA) are healthcare workers who provide continuous observation and monitoring for high risk patients.  PSA's typically work in hospitals and nursing homes and work under the supervision of a trained nurse.  The primary responsibility of a PSA is to stay with the patient and assure his/her safety and keep them company by talking or reading to the patient, but they may also be asked to record a patient's food and liquid intake, report any changes that occur to senior staff members, and help the patient move in and out of bed.

PSA's do not usually need a certification prior to starting this position and it can be a great stepping stone to becoming a PCT/LNA/CNA.  

Phlebotomists

Phlebotomists collect blood for donation or so the blood can be analyzed in a clinical laboratory.  Phlebotomists work in clinical laboratories, hospitals, community health centers, nursing homes, doctor's offices, blood donation centers, and other healthcare facilities.  You must complete a certification program first prior to taking the NHA National Certification Exam to become a certified phlebotomist.

Research at UNH

Research is an opportunity to demonstrate the strength of your academic commitment.  You may develop your own research project, work as part of an ongoing research project or develop an independent study supervised by a professor.  The value is not solely in the research itself but the quality of your personal involvement!  Research often is not a requirement for professional programs (unless you are applying to MD/PhD or DO/PhD programs).  Opportunities for research at UNH are available in all disciplines!  Talk with your professors/advisors, see which faculty members are doing research by searching different research topics here., and investigate the different research centers & institutions around campus as well as the UROP and IROP. 

Internships

Internships are a great way to strengthen your application and provide you with something new to do over the summer (which looks great on your application!).  I would recommend looking at the Internships for COLSA Students (but these internships are open to everyone) for links to specific organizations you could intern with broken down by each COLSA department (I would recommend looking at the Biological Sciences. and Molecular, Cellular, and Biomedical Sciences departments specifically).  You should also review the CaPS Internship page., as well as Handshake for other internship recommendations and opportunities.  

Below I've listed some organizations you could potentially intern at/with. 

Summer Opportunities

While it may sound nice to spend your summer relaxing at the beach or hanging out with friends, you could also be engaging in experiences you might otherwise not have the chance to.  There are quite a few different types of health-related summer programs that you could take part of that would strengthen your application!  Below I've listed some opportunities you might want to consider: