Are you a pre med student? Have you found yourself in the position of taking a gap year (or years), but not sure what you want to do with your time? Or maybe you’re looking for a part-time job while you’re in undergrad? You’ve come to the right place! I’ve compiled a list of the 5 best jobs for pre med students that I think simultaneously provide exposure to the medical field and experience to fill your gap year(s) while you prepare for application season.
The road to medical school is not uniform for all. For some, it’s a smooth-sailing highway either directly from undergrad, or even through an early acceptance program during sophomore year. For others, it can be a road with a varying number of detours, re-routes, and obstacles.
As a non-traditional student myself, I also appreciated the taste of “real life” my gap years provided. Having a job offers a different style of learning from sitting in a classroom or on a Zoom lecture. It teaches you many valuable skills that are extremely useful in the long run, especially in a career of lifelong learning like medicine.
Read on to find out a few of my picks for pre med gap year jobs ranked by least to most qualifications required!
Work closely with clinicians to document notes between them and their patients. You will learn about medical terminology, how to create an H&P (history and physical – patient notes created for electronic medical record purposes), and how to take a patient history. Depending on the company, like ScribeAmerica, you can also have the opportunity to spend time in the patient room with the physician. I spent a year scribing in an emergency room in New York with Envision Physician Services (EPS) in which I would work at whatever nurse’s station computer was available and the clinician would report their notes to me rather than I come with them. I definitely had to learn to type very fast, which also becomes a good skill down the road during our timed OSCEs in medical school. Additionally, with EPS, I was taking notes for physicians as well as PAs and NPs throughout the shift. Most companies provide training of a varying amount of weeks prior to your actual start date on the floor.
High school diploma. Some companies ask for at least sophomore status in undergraduate.
The medical knowledge gained from scribing provides you with a strong background in clinical jargon that helps you to grasp your future clinical course content more rapidly. Interacting and networking with various clinicians also gives you the chance to enhance communication and social plasticity as each provider operates differently, as well as opportunities for letters of recommendation.
Provide support to researchers in a lab with various preparation of samples, maintenance of records and equipment, and documentation of results. The longer one works in a lab, the more one’s analytical mind develops, especially when tasked with interpretation and presentation of results. You work closely with PhD candidates and occasionally the PIs (principal investigators), however once you are well-acquainted with the experiment process your work becomes increasingly independent.
High school diploma usually, although some would like to see previous lab assistant experience which you can easily obtain while in undergrad through your own science departments.
Benchwork is a valuable asset to those wishing to pursue research alongside their medical careers. Opportunities can also arise for publications, first authorship, and conference presentation which can be especially beneficial for any medical school candidate. Letters of recommendation of course are an additional potential asset especially if the PI is also a clinician.
Actively collaborate with a team on clinical trials in specific fields of medicine headed by a principal investigator (PI) or PIs. Clinical research has many components, meaning depending on where you are working, you can be assigned anywhere from one aspect to all of them. Trials can also vary in type – from simple studies like questionnaires to large-scale, multi-center pharmaceutical trials. One area of larger studies that some choose to go into is data collection, where you spend most of your time entering data from the Electronic Medical Records (EMR) of the patients enrolled in your study. Another aspect is more clinical-based, which involves you keeping track of the components in the study timeline needed for each patient, such as labs, imaging, and making sure that informed consents are being done promptly, especially when study changes are made. The latter is often made by the regulatory member of the team, who keeps track of amendments to study documents and submits them to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) for approval. In some institutions, you will be working on all of these components. There are also studies that may require more patient interaction such as saliva sample collection.
Institution-dependent. Usually some research or experience in a related field are required. Sometimes a Bachelor’s degree.
Clinical research gives a peek into how the world of drug development works. There are many opportunities to learn not only from your (often pre-med) colleagues, but from the PIs. Hard, consistent work can also earn you a recommendation letter for future school applications. Additionally, presentations at national conferences are not uncommon. Some have even collaborated with their own PIs on simpler studies such as questionnaires or retrospective analyses of patient data, which can be a huge resume booster especially if it ends in a publication and conference presentation. Finally, it can be a great way to more deeply explore a specialty in which you might be interested.
Different places name the roles differently (Clinical Research Associate, Specialist, etc.), but the tasks more or less encompass what is mentioned above in the Background section. Search for “research hospitals near me” and use their websites to view their current job openings. Some won’t specify the department right away in the description; but the further you get into the application process, the more details about which you are able to inquire. When searching, you can also add a specialty if you know what area you’d like to investigate.
Respond to medical emergencies in a pre-hospital setting ranging from bandaging a wound to providing resuscitation. This includes assessment of the severity of an injury and rapid decision-making for proper care and transport. With experience as an EMT, you can even take a longer course to become a paramedic to build upon your EMT knowledge with a longer course. Paramedics generally know more in-depth emergency medicine, including starting IVs, administering medications, and even EKG interpretation.
BLS certification, EMT certification for EMT programs. Paramedic programs usually require at least 6 months of EMT experience.
EMTs and paramedics learn to perform under high stress environments. Additionally, many of the clinical skills and terminology you learn come up again in medical school. This is no place for monotony, as every day is different and you never know what you’re going to see and learn. If you’re enticed by a fast paced, high pressure environment, this could be the job for you.
BLS and EMT courses can be found near you via quick Google search. Pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technician exams to become certified. Apply via Google search or websites like EMS1 and EMS World. Keep in mind that the skills you learn as an EMT are applicable anywhere, from your hometown to cruise ships to national parks.
Work under nursing supervision in a private office, hospital, or other health care facility to provide clinical assistance to the health care team. Help patients with daily living tasks including repositioning, dressing, and bathing. A CNA can also be asked to check vitals and record patient information such as medications.
BLS certification. Varies by state but most facilities require a CNA certificate. (Note: similar Planned Parenthood positions do not require any certification.)
Learn patient interaction, bedside manner, and the inner workings of a health care setting by being at the forefront of the patient’s medical team. Empathy and compassion are vital qualities in a healthcare professional, and there’s no better way to use and develop these skills than working one-on-one with patients at their most vulnerable moments.
BLS and CNA programs can be found near you via quick Google search. Most of these programs can help with finding a job. Otherwise search hospitals, continuing care, and clinics near you and review their job postings.
There are tons of options out there for what to do with your pre med gap year(s). The ones I provided encompass a wide variety of skill sets that are all fundamental to developing you into a well-rounded medical student and future health care professional.
In choosing what to do, I strongly recommend that you factor in the level of genuine interest and enjoyment that it will bring you, rather than just checking off another box on your Getting Into Medical School “To Do” list. Here are my two reasons why:
And don’t forget that you and your health (mental, physical, spiritual) should always come first.