If you plan to pursue a career in a health profession it is important to gain experience that will allow you to make an informed decision and pick the right profession for you. Furthermore, service-orientation, knowledge of key issues in health care, and a clear understanding of the rewards and demands of the profession are all important building blocks of a strong application. Relevant work experience, shadowing, volunteering and community service can help you gain and then demonstrate these qualities in your application. Involvement in activities that are truly meaningful to you will add depth to your academic experience and help you stand out during your application process.
General Volunteer & Clinical Experience Search Resources:
Find postings for currently available health related volunteer and internship positions.
Most hospitals have well developed volunteer programs with multiple opportunities to get involved. Find the “Volunteer” page on your local hospitals’ websites for more information.
Community clinics offer vast opportunities to support their mission to provide health care to under served and disadvantaged populations.
Nursing Homes/Assisted Living Facilities
Volunteering in hospice demonstrates a candidate’s maturity and understanding of the gravity of facing end of life on a daily basis.
- PULSE: https://pulseucla.wixsite.com/pulse
- Undergraduate Research Center – Sciences (URC)
- Utilize the UCLA’s Undergraduate Research Portal where you can search based on interests, research term , and/or time commitment.
- Reach out directly to faculty to find a research project and mentor.
- Biomedical Research Minor
- UCLA Summer Programs for Undergraduate Research (SPUR)
- Student Organizations Focused on Research (filter using Category = Journals or Keyword = Research, Member Type = Undergraduate or Undergraduate/Graduate)
- Academic Department Newsletters
- Inquire Directly with Professors/TA’s
Nationwide Summer Research Programs:
- Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF)
- UC Research Opportunities: https://graduate.universityofcalifornia.edu/admissions/preparing/research-opportunities/index.html
Shadowing is a valuable method by which to gain a realistic understanding of the profession(s) you are considering. Shadowing is an important activity not only for your own exploration and decision-making process, but also for the application and admissions process. It is critical for a candidate to demonstrate their understanding of the profession and how they have acquired that understanding through direct exposure.
How to Find Someone to Shadow
Be polite, direct and brief in your emails when expressing your interest in shadowing. Be sure to personalize your message with a note about why you are contacting them specifically (research their background on their company website and/or LinkedIn). Attach your resume to give the professionals more information about you and your background.
- Use UCLA One to find UCLA alumni in your profession(s) of interest.
- Use LinkedIn to see how you are connected to health professionals through your own personal network.
- Ask relatives or friends who are connected to health professionals.
- Contact professionals you have met at panels or networking events.
- Contact the professional association.
- Call local offices/clinics/hospitals.
- Contact your own healthcare provider(s).
- Be punctual every day. This will demonstrate respect for their time and will leave a positive impression.
- Wear professional attire and close-toed shoes. If in doubt, ask the person you’re shadowing if they have any specific considerations.
- Be as discreet and inconspicuous as possible, like a fly on the wall.
- Do not ask questions at busy times when you will distract from patient care. Take notes of your questions so you can ask at an appropriate time.
- When you conclude your shadowing experience, send a thoughtful thank you letter (handwritten card preferred). You may also consider a small gift (nothing extravagant) to show your gratitude.
Make the Most of Your Shadowing Experience
- Shadow the same person for a fair amount of time. Aim for daily for 2 weeks, or 2-3 days/week for 1-2 months.
- Shadow more than one professional so you can compare and contrast differences in specialties and/or settings.
- Keep a journal of reflections on what you see every day. They may provide valuable content for your personal statement, essays, and interview responses later on.
- Ask questions about lifestyle, happiness, pros and cons, challenges, etc.
- Leave a great impression by offering to help out while you’re there.
- If you shadowed for a fair amount of time and built positive rapport with the person you shadowed, request a letter of recommendation at the conclusion of your shadowing experience.
Training & Certifications
CPR, First Aid, BLS, EMT, Phlebotomy, Medical Assistant
- UCLA Prehospital Care: https://www.cpc.mednet.ucla.edu/
- SWC CPR/FA Program: http://uclacpr.weebly.com/
- The Building Heroes Project at UCLA: Buildingtodaysheroes@gmail.com
- National Health Career Association: https://www.nhanow.com/certifications
- Medical Assistant: https://www.medassistantedu.org/
Activity and Experience Recommendations from UCLA Alumni
UCLA alumni and current medical students share their personal experiences and insights on various clinical, internship, service, and academic programs. Developed by the Med Mentors at UCLA.
UCLA Student Organizations Database
Hints: Search by category such as Health & Wellness, Medical, Dental, Community Service, or anything else that aligns with your interests and passions. Be sure to choose “Undergraduate” as the Member type. If you have a niche interest area, just type it in the keyword search field.
UCLA Undergraduate Research Center – Sciences – Get involved with research on campus.
UCLA Biomedical Research Minor – Independent research is complemented by coursework that develops important skills such as critical thinking, analysis of research literature and data presentation.
UCLA Health Volunteer Programs – Volunteer at the UCLA Ronald Reagan or UCLA Santa Monica Hospitals.
UCLA Center for Pre-Hospital Care – Training programs for EMT, Paramedic, CPR/ACLS/PALS, Phlebotomy, and Trauma Life Support.
UCLA Student Stroke Team and Stroke Force – Student-run volunteer organizations of undergraduate students who work alongside neurologists during code strokes in the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center Emergency Room.
UCLA Emergency Medicine Research Associates (EMRA) – Volunteer clinical research program based out of the Department of Emergency Medicine in the David Geffen School of Medicine, in which undergraduate students assist with screening, consenting, and enrolling patients in clinical trials and observational studies at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.