There are a variety of opportunities for pre-health students to gain exposure to healthcare settings, medical professionals, and patients. These experiences may be called:
More information about each of these activities are included below.
Remember, it is not the title of the experience that matters but, rather, what you learned throughout the experience. Most health profession programs are unconcerned as to whether the opportunity is called an "internship" vs. "volunteer position" but will want to know how the experience shaped your view of healthcare and helps you articulate your capacity to be a great provider of care.
Obtained a Pre-Health Experience? Tell us all about it!
Professional Observation Experiences
A Professional Observation Experience, commonly referred to as a “Shadowing Experience”, is an educational exploration where students can learn about a particular occupation or profession by observing or “shadowing” a practitioner in their professional environment. The Professional Observation Mentor is the individual the students is observing/shadowing. The Faculty Advisor, if applicable, is a faculty member at FSC who has sponsored this experience for academic credit.
Professional observation experiences allow students to better understand their field of interest, receive mentoring, establish a professional network, and make their academic studies more relevant.
The following handouts provide additional helpful information:
Finding Observation Experiences/Internships Over Summer
Check out the entire list of formalized clinical observation programs available over summer below. Each program determines their own eligibility information, program duration, student responsibilities, etc.
Summer Clinical Observation Programs Summer Clinical Observation Programs with Research Component
Finding Observation Experiences in Lakeland
Chemistry and Biology majors interested in shadowing a healthcare provider in the Lakeland area are eligible to request a professional observation experience via the placement process. Through this process, the Career and Internship Coordinator will work to secure you an opportunity with a mentor that will provide a meaningful and worthwhile experience.
To find out more about this process click here:
Professional Observation Experiences: In Lakeland
Finding Observation Experiences Outside of Lakeland
Students are encourage to research and secure their own professional observation experiences. Many FSC students will participate in professional observation experiences during school breaks or over the summer. Generally, the process of researching facilities, outreaching to individuals, and securing an opportunity takes multiple weeks. Therefore, it is recommended that students begin the steps below well in advance of their intended start date.
1. Tap Into Your Network!
4. Start to Call and/or Email
Do you (or your parents or friends) know of any facilities or professionals you can contact? If so, reach out to these individuals to see if they have any
interest in hosting an observer! If you need help with what to say, see item #3 below.
2. Begin Researching Facilities & Professionals
If you were unsuccessful securing an opportunity within your personal network, you will want to begin outreaching to other professionals.
First, you will want to develop a system to track the places you plan to outreach to, as well as the responses you receive. One such template available for
students to use is here: Professional Observation Outreach Tracking Sheet.
Remember that Google is your friend! Don't be afraid to do a web search for facilities/providers based on location, specialization, etc. Once you found a
facility or individual that looks interesting, add them to your tracking sheet! Be sure to add multiple individuals/locations.
3. Write a Script or Email Template
This is what you will say or email to the individuals you wish to shadow. You will want to include the following: who you are (student, school, major), why
you are calling/ what you want from them (i.e. the ability to shadow), when you are available, and how they can reach you.
For emails: you may also want to include your top accomplishments, a list of relevant courses, a link to your LinkedIn, and/or attach your resume.
Sample Script for Phone Calls
Be prepared to reach out to MANY locations- I recommend contacting 10 places at a time (unless you get a firm "yes" from a location/individual, in which
case it is not necessary to continue outreaching to other locations.) Most will take down your information and say they will get back to you. If you do not
hear from the first 10 places after 1 week, you may wish to follow up with the original locations and call an additional 10 locations. Don’t get
discouraged, this process may take time!
Once you Secure a Professional Observation Opportunity
- Complete the Professional Observation Agreement and Code of Conduct Form (if applicable) return to the Career and Internship Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org. Review the Profession Observation Guides for more information.
- Dress professionally and comfortably. For healthcare settings and labs this means closed-toed shoes and business profession dress (scrubs may also be appropriate depending on the location).
- Confirm important logistical information with the professional. For example, when will it be appropriate to ask questions? For healthcare settings also establish how you will be introduced to patients and how a patient is asked if you can observe the patient-physician interaction.
- Keep a journal of your experiences including start/end dates, supervisor information, average hours per week, and your reflections which should include (at a minimum): great moments, terrible moments, "ah-ha" moments, great patients/clients, difficulty patients/clients, hot topics in the field, new philosophies, new technology/devices you saw, etc. Be sure to notate the specific procedure names as well as medical/scientific terminology.
- Write a thank you note to give the professional on your last day that thanks them for their time. If you think it went well, consider asking for a letter of recommendation right away.
Volunteering in a Hospital or Clinic
Volunteering in clinical settings are unpaid experience that provide healthcare exposure while allowing you to show a commitment to the profession. When volunteering in a healthcare setting, students are introduced to the practice of medicine, the day-today responsibilities of the health care provider and the patient perspective.
Not all healthcare settings will allow volunteers but many hospitals and clinics have opportunities for volunteers (and will publish this information on their website). Volunteer responsibilities vary from location to location. Be sure to review this information as well as eligibility and time requirements provided by each location.
Near to Florida Southern College are the following healthcare volunteering opportunities:
Healthcare providers are the ultimate servant leaders, so it is important that applicants can indicate tangible ways in which they help others.
You can show your service orientation in many different ways outside of a hospital or clinic. Students are encouraged to review the information found below:
Additional Non-Clinical Volunteering Options
Direct Patient Care
Direct patient care experiences are different from observation and volunteering experiences in that, although you still observe healthcare providers at work, these experiences are ones in which you are directly responsible for a patient's care. Examples of activities included in direct patient care include, but are not limited to: 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. Unlike observing, direct patient care experiences usually incorporate physical contact with a patient and, therefore, traditionally requires a certification or on-the-job training. Additionally, many direct patient care opportunities are paid (although this is not required to be considered direct patient care- for example a volunteer EMT is not paid but if they are performing the traditional EMT role they are gaining direct patient care hours)!
Many different opportunities could fall into the realm of direct patient care. Some common
roles that incorporate direct patient care are below (but many more exist). Remember that it is the job duties that make a position count as direct patient care.
Positions that May Offer On-the-Job Training:
Positions that Typically Require Certifications:
Note: In Lakeland, Travis Technical College offers training programs in Dental Assisting, Medical Assisting, Optometric Assisting, Pharmacy Technician, Phlebotomy and more and Elite Healthcare Institute offers training programs in Phlebotomy, CNA, Medical Assisting, CPR/First Aid and more!
To secure positions, students will need to search for job openings through job board such as Indeed
, LinkedIn Jobs
, and hospital/clinic job boards. Many paid positions will be full-time and may be difficult to complete in conjunction with a full academic load. As direct patient care experiences tend to be paid opportunities, the Career and Internship Coordinator does not place students in these positions.