Work Experience

Work experiences are those where you are being paid for your time and experience. Although most health profession programs will require or strongly recommend exposure to healthcare through indirect patient care (i.e. shadowing or clinical volunteering), work experience is generally not required for most health profession programs, with the exception of Physician Assistant. However, there are substantial benefits to working healthcare:

  • if you are already working in healthcare, you may wish to continue to hone those skills
  • you are able to earn a paycheck while gaining healthcare exposure
  • work experiences may provide additional insight into healthcare or your intended profession above and beyond what could be learned in a shadowing or volunteering setting

However, it is important to remember that as work experience is generally not required for admission to health profession programs, your work experience should not jeopardize your competitiveness. For example, if you plan to work 40 hours a week and, therefore, are unable to take a competitive course load, you may seriously jeopardize your competitiveness to your intended health profession program. Alternatively, if you work too many hours and are unable to maintain a competitive GPA, you will decrease your chances of acceptance, regardless of the experience earned.

Direct Patient Care Experience

Direct Patient Care Experiences are those in which you are directly responsible for a patient’s care; for example: prescribing medication, performing procedures, directing a course of treatment, working on patients as an active EMT, drawing blood, taking vitals or providing personal hygiene care. These experiences are different from indirect patient care experiences, which mainly come in the form of volunteering and shadowing. Some health profession programs, mainly Physician Assistant programs, will require or strongly recommend direct patient care. If the health profession programs you plan to apply to does not required direct patient care, it can still be a great supplement to your application and, possibly, a way to earn money while in school.

However, it doesn't have to be paid experience to count as direct patient care. A good example of this is a volunteer EMT position, which is direct patient care and unpaid. Remember, volunteer work that is primarily observation is a great way to "get your foot in the door" at a health care setting but it is not direct patient care. A key is to look into receiving a certification or a skill, as the more hands-on and intensive the patient care experience the better. For applicants who are already health professionals, such as nurses, paramedics, or respiratory therapists, the practice of your profession for the recommended length of time would constitute such clinical experience.

Most Direct Patient Care positions will require some sort of certification in order to be hired to complete these activities (with the exception of certain positions like a scribe and MAs who may be trained upon hiring). Additionally, although many individual interested in becoming a CNA will take a course, you are allowed to sit for the exam without completing a CNA education program.

Some possible positions where you gain these experiences are:

  • serving as technician in Radiography
  • a medical Scribe in an Emergency Department
  • a patient care technician
  • a patient care assistant
  • a medical assistant
  • a physical therapy aide
  • a pharmacy technician
  • a homecare assistant/aide
  • a phlebotomist
  • an EMT or Paramedic
  • a CNA
  • And more!

If you are applying to a school that requires Direct Patient Care Experience, you will want to review the admission’s websites or confirm with an admissions officer regarding the experiences you plan to use since each school can make their own exceptions and specific recommendations.

Websites to find training opportunities:

For Pre-PA Students: On the CASPA application, you must provide information on both direct (“hands-on”) and indirect (“related”) health care experience, including role or job title, name of institution, name of supervisor, description of tasks, number of hours worked per week, and number of weeks worked at that institution. Clinical experience can be on a paid or volunteer basis. Some schools will recommend least one year (2000 hours) of direct (“hands-on” actually TOUCHING patients) patient care experience before entering the school. Others will simply recommend extensive experience without listing an hour requirements. Currently, the average clinical hours of accepted applicants is about 2000 hours.