Being a Pre-Med student means a lot of things. Mostly, it means long nights working on papers, long days doing math problems that you’re fairly certain you’ll never need again, looking for good things to put on your resume, and the impending doom you feel about getting into medical school. Having to realistically answer the question of what you will do if you don’t get in right away is also horrid. You see all of your friends around you who aren’t premed getting internships. You see them getting field experience while you’re stressing over your grades, knowing that there is a finite number of medical programs in the United States. Yet experience is great for med school applications. So how do you find an internship when you’re Pre-Med?
- Focus on shadowing.
The most important thing to focus on is shadowing. Mostly for legal purposes, you can’t do surgeries and treat patients when you’re a college student. You don’t know anything and most people don’t come to the doctor’s office to be a 19 year old’s learning project. Yet with shadowing, you’re able to go into a surgery or a doctor’s office and see how doctors work with their patients. You learn about the diseases and injuries doctors treat and what they do in a general workday. You learn a lot about the job you will potentially have in the future and you can find out if the medical field is right for you. Shadowing is also extremely important for medical school applications.
- Talk to your personal doctor first.
Most people know someone who is a doctor, and it’s often the person they see for visits and physicals while they’re children. To get an internship, this is the first person you should talk to. At your next appointment, ask if they know anyone looking for an intern, or if they would be interested in allowing you to intern or shadow for a few weeks. You’ll probably be more comfortable with your own doctor more than someone you don’t know. They also may be inclined to help you since they know you too!
- Ask doctors at the medical school in your area or the medical school associated with your university.
My university does not have a medical program of its own, but I only live a short drive away from a medical school. If there’s a medical school nearby, or if one is associated with your university, you can ask the doctors who work for the university hospital if they would be interested in allowing you to intern. As there probably isn’t a formal undergraduate internship program, it’s very important to put yourself out there and ask for the internships that you personally want. Physicians who work for university hospitals frequently love to teach other people and want to help to mold the next generation of doctors. They love to help, so asking them will frequently get you a yes if they have the time!
- Ask a lot of physicians.
The truth about physicians is that they are busy. They’re committed to their jobs and patients, so they do not always have time to take on college students. You’ll probably have to ask a lot of people before someone agrees to take you on. I am not talking about 15 people. I am talking about over 50. I asked approximately 100 physicians for internships and I got no’s from most of them and received 1 yes. The more physicians you ask, the more likely it is that you will receive a yes from someone. You may reach 99 doctors who are too busy to take on an intern and maybe even too busy to answer their emails. But if you keep asking, there could be 1 out of 100 who is excited to have you and interested in teaching you whatever they can about their field. Part of getting the internship is about putting yourself out there and being persistent.
Being Pre-Med is hard, and a big part of making it to medical school is finding the internship you want and need. But if you’re determined and willing to put yourself out there, you will be able to begin your entry into the world of medicine while still an undergrad.