Being an EMT Offers the Best Clinical Experience for Pre-Med Students
For those with an interest in medicine, becoming a doctor is often the ultimate goal. As a doctor, the pay is much better, the responsibilities are greater, and then you have the opportunity to change the entire medical industry through your work (plus, it’s hard not to look good wearing one of those white coats).
Before the white coat, however, you need to make it through medical school. And one of the best ways to get an upper hand in medical school is by first getting hands-on experience as an EMT.
Why Medical Schools Love EMTs
As an EMT, you have an incredibly valuable asset… experience. Your shifts on the ambulance, treating trauma and sickness in the field, gives you hands-on experience that can’t be taught in a classroom. For that reason, medical schools look favorably on EMT applicants. Your work also proves to medical schools (and their admissions boards) that you already have a passion for treating patients and have already taken steps to build a career in that field.
In a survey that was sent to 67 medical schools in the United States and Canada, 85.7% of schools responded favorably about EMT and paramedic experience when reviewing applicants. From the survey responses, none of the schools viewed EMS experience negatively. (Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine)
- 85.7% – Positive
- 14.3% – Neutral
- 0% – Negative
Going the distance and becoming a doctor takes your mission as an EMT to the next level, allowing you to treat patients in bigger and better ways—which means more help for them, and a more satisfying career for you.
How to Prepare for Medical School as an EMT
Experience as an EMT can help with medical school in many ways. A pre-med student with EMT experience will:
- Gain medical knowledge and certification through their EMT training
- Meet clinical and patient care hour requirements
- Stand out to admission committees
- Gain knowledge that’s not taught in school
- Get an inside look into the operations of hospitals, care facilities, and emergency rooms
- Strengthen their application – for any job or school
EMT to Medical School
Pre-med students can learn many valuable skills during EMT training or while on the job as a medical first responder.
Some of the most useful skills that can prepare you for medical school include:
- Patient assessment and triage
- Stabilization of patients
- Immobilizing injured patients
- Recognizing the signs of trauma and shock
- Emergency medicine
- Recognizing common medical emergencies, such as diabetic shock and overdose
- Communication with EMT teams in the field
- Movement of patients
- Starting an IV or administering intravenous drugs (paramedics only)
EMT clinical experience will almost certainly be used again during your career as a doctor and knowing how to use them effectively will also give you a leg up in your medical school training.
Why EMTs Should Consider Pre-Med Training
Life as an EMT is exciting. It involves saving lives and it offers a secure career in a growing field.
Life as a doctor is all of this and more. For starters, doctors and surgeons make an average of $208,000 per year—nearly $175,000 per year more than the average EMT.
Physicians also have much more responsibilities, including leading an on-call staff of nurses and technicians during their shift, diagnosing injuries and illnesses, prescribing medicines, and completing complex procedures.
Specialization is also an option for doctors. Like working with kids? You can specialize in pediatric medicine. Prefer analysis to medical procedures? You can be an interventional radiologist and examine x-rays for a living. There are hundreds of possibilities after medical school. All you have to do is decide which one fits you best.
Of course, in order to become a doctor and choose a specialty, you do need to complete some intense training over the course of several years. But as an EMT, you have the advantage of having done some training already, and you already know exactly what it’s like treating patients outside of a classroom setting.
What an EMT Can Expect in Medical School
Medical School Requirements
While exact requirements may vary from school to school, most medical schools require the following from their applicants:
- A four-year Bachelor of Science degree
- Letters of recommendation
- A minimum GPA of 3.0
- A passing MCAT exam score
Some medical schools also require their applicants to have taken specific courses in college, such as Biology, Chemistry, and Advanced Mathematics.
Medical School Courses (Curriculum)
Once you’ve been accepted into medical school, you can expect four years of medical school training followed by 3 to 7 years of residency (during which time you’ll work as a doctor but under the supervision of a senior physician).
Your first two years of medical school will consist primarily of classes in biochemistry, pharmacology, pathology, and microbiology. Years three and four will be more familiar to EMTs, as you’ll begin working in a hospital setting, shadowing doctors, interacting with patients, and performing basic procedures.
Following graduation from medical school (and passing your medical board exam), you’ll enter your paid residency—the first year which many consider on par with a paid medical internship. Here you’ll begin exploring possible specialties and will be assigned to a hospital.
Complete your residency (and any required exams for your specialty) and you’ll be certified to work as an unrestricted doctor or surgeon. You can choose to continue to work for a hospital or private practice. The possibilities for your medical career are endless.
But, you don’t have to wait for medical school to begin working with patients or gain clinical experience. Pre-med students can enter the healthcare field while still in college, by enrolling at their nearest EMT school.
Doctor’s Salary: Residency
Once you begin your residency, you can stop paying tuition and start getting paid for your hospital and clinic hours. Exact reimbursement varies from program to program, but the national average salary for medical residents is $56,304 per year. Additional pay can also be earned by taking additional shifts (known as “moonlighting”) or continuing to work as an EMT on the side. Check your residency programs requirements for more information on what your intended program allows.
The EMT Advantage
Pre-Med Clinical Experience:
The majority of medical school training is clinical—meaning students observe doctors working with actual patients and not just textbooks and lab simulations. And some of that clinical experience is required before students can even apply to medical school. This clinical experience can either be paid (working as an EMT, paramedic, medical tech, or pharmaceutical tech) or volunteer (internships, externships, and assisting in hospices, clinics, or other similar fields). Basically, if you’re working near a patient, it usually counts as clinical experience hours.
This immediately gives medical first responders a leg up on those without EMT experience, as EMTs have real world clinical experience working with patients and observing doctors in various situations.
Note: Be sure and read the application requirements carefully before submitting EMT hours as clinical experience, as some schools may require additional hospital or clinic shadowing.
Stronger Medical School Applications:
Many applicants apply to medical school citing reasons they think they’ll be good at medicine, but EMTs can cite actual examples of how they’ve saved lives and treated patients. Extracurriculars and volunteer hours certainly help strengthen an application (so don’t ignore those), but an EMT certification, clinical experience, and recommendations from superiors you’ve worked under in the medical field are impossible to ignore.
Pre-Med Work Experience:
Not only do EMTs have paid medical work experience on their resumes, but they also have the completed training and certification of an Emergency Medical Technician. This indicates an experienced, dedicated worker who has already proven their reliability and skill in treating patients.
Patience Under Pressure:
For all its advantages, medical school and residency isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of work, dedication, and study to complete the multi-year training and become a licensed doctor or surgeon. Fortunately, EMTs are trained to stay cool under pressure and remain calm in stressful situations. That experience can help while tending to a patient in the field but can also give an EMT an advantage when working through a demanding challenge like medical school.
Most medical students spend weeks to months (even years) just learning how to be comfortable dealing with patients in a medical setting. As an EMT, you’ve already accomplished this and have been working directly with patients for some time. This allows you to focus on the medicine rather than your comfort level.
The View of the Finish Line:
Many students who drop out of medical school do so because they didn’t fully understand what they were in for. They underestimated the work load or the strain of emergency medicine and working with patients. As an EMT, you already know these challenges and have figured out how to overcome them. You know exactly what career you’re working towards and why, and that alone puts you well ahead of the curve.
EMTs Make Excellent Medical Students
Not all EMTs decide to go to medical school, and that’s absolutely fine. We need qualified, dedicated EMTs on call 24/7, especially ones who love their job. But the EMTs who do go on to medical school do so with a full toolbox of skills and experience that medical schools just can’t get enough of.
If you’re interested in pursuing your EMT certification before applying to medical school, check out our guide on how to become an EMT. In just over two weeks, you could be on your way to a successful, rewarding career in medicine.