A Guide to Clinical Volunteer Opportunities [2023]

Aug 28, 2023 8:22:42 AM | Pre-Med A Guide to Clinical Volunteer Opportunities [2023]

Clinical volunteer opportunities help pre-meds gain patient care and leadership experience locally or internationally. Here’s how to pick one right for you.

Volunteering during your pre-med years shows your commitment to helping others, especially in a hospital setting. It provides invaluable experience for medical students and is a way to make your medical school application stand out. 

What are the best volunteer opportunities for medical students? Some of the best volunteer opportunities for medical students include volunteering at local free clinics and hospitals, nursing homes, rehab centers, with adults and children with disabilities, or with a medical brigade abroad.

There are plenty of options for clinical volunteer opportunities. This guide will provide insights into what to expect and how to find clinical volunteer opportunities near you. 

Reasons to Consider Clinical Volunteering

Volunteering is more than just community service; it’s a great way to start developing skills and work experience while empowering people and communities you partner with.

What are the benefits of volunteering?

  • Experience — When pursuing health professions, volunteering provides hands-on experience to hone essential skills.
  • Networking — Volunteering at a medical center or care center setting provides opportunities to meet and connect with healthcare providers, doctors, physician assistants, mentors, and fellow volunteers. These connections may provide references, letters of recommendation, and collaborative initiatives in the future.
  • Getting familiar with patient care — In a clinical setting, you’ll experience firsthand what patient care truly entails. These encounters will give you a unique perspective that textbooks can’t duplicate.
  • Committing to personal growth — Direct interactions with patients, having to understand their challenges, and being part of their recovery builds empathy, which is a core trait for any aspiring doctor.
  • Exploring specialties — If you’re not quite sure what specialty you’d like to study, volunteering offers a low-commitment avenue to explore these roles and the day-to-day responsibilities they entail. Experiencing different specialties can help you make informed career decisions.
  • Building cultural competence — Choosing international clinical volunteering opportunities will expose you to diverse cultural health norms, practices, and challenges. Working in these environments shapes culturally sensitive and competent global citizens.
  • Boosting your med school application — A solid volunteering background is often viewed favorably by admissions committees. These extracurriculars showcase commitment, a passion for medicine, initiative, and a willingness to go the extra mile.

Learn about how we’re the largest student-led movement for global health.

Clinical vs. Non-Clinical Volunteering

What is the difference between clinical and nonclinical volunteering? Clinical volunteering involves hands-on patient care. This can include shadowing physicians, working in hospitals or the emergency department, assisting with physical therapy sessions, or helping at inpatient care centers or hospices.

Non-clinical volunteering, on the other hand, can be any sort of volunteer role that doesn’t involve patient care. Examples include fundraising, mentoring high school students, being one of the greeters in a hospital waiting room, or working at your local animal shelter.

Global Brigades provides opportunities for both clinical and non-clinical volunteering experience. From working with patients to data entry and providing public health presentations, you’ll learn crucial skills for a future career in healthcare.

What to Expect While Volunteering

The day-to-day of your volunteer role will largely depend on the job or tasks you are being assigned. Having a clear understanding of the expectations will help make your volunteering experience go smoothly, and let you get the most out of your time. 

If you applied to a specific volunteer position, you’ll likely have seen the requirements and expectations prior to submitting your application. If you signed up to volunteer with an organization or health center outreach program, you may be placed into a shift or assigned tasks for the day. 

Understand the volunteer application process and onboarding process, which may include a background check, immunization records, and vaccinations.

As part of a Global Medical Brigade, you’ll help to check in patients, shadow doctors during patient consultations, help distribute medications, and lead health education workshops in our partner communities.

Chapter Leaders will develop even more leadership experience, fundraising, recruiting, and planning upcoming brigades.

Get Involved

Being able to commit the time is important. Some roles will require a minimum time commitment, or require you to be there on certain weekdays, and admissions committees prefer to see volunteers that span months or years

You’ll need to be prepared for continuous learning. Clinical volunteer programs will provide exposure to treatment, medical technologies, and the everyday life of being a doctor. 

Some volunteering experiences will have periodic review sessions. Embrace these sessions to gain feedback, reflect on your growth, and work on your areas of improvement. This will help you become a well-rounded medical student and future doctor.  

What Is the Best Way to Find a Clinical Volunteer Opportunity?

Finding the right clinical volunteer opportunity starts with identifying your goals and interests. Here are some steps to guide you:

  1. Self-assessment — Ask yourself what your goals and passions are, and what you hope to learn during your time volunteering. This will help you narrow your search. 
  2. Check with your university — Many schools have a community engagement or volunteer board. Your pre-health advisor may be able to point you in the direction of local healthcare institutions. Check to see if your campus has a Global Medical Brigades chapter.

If your school doesn’t have a Global Medical Brigades chapter, you can start a Brigade at your school. You’ll gain clinical volunteering experiences and leadership skills!

Become a Chapter President

  1. Look at local hospitals & health centers — To volunteer at a local hospital, go to medical center and hospital websites and search for their volunteer services department. If you have a department in mind, you can also inquire directly about opportunities by calling or emailing their volunteer services department.
  2. Community organizations & free clinics — Underserved and underprivileged communities often need volunteers in free clinics and care centers that provide medical services. Search for organizations in your area that partner with aspiring healthcare professionals and reach out about available volunteer opportunities.
  3. Red Cross & global health organizations — With a quick visit to the Red Cross website,  you’ll find a list of volunteer opportunities. Ask ahead of time if you’ll get hands-on clinical experience in the position you are seeking.
  4. Ask around — Sometimes, the best opportunities come from word-of-mouth recommendations. Ask professors who have healthcare connections, talk to your pre-health advisor, and ask older students who have already been accepted to medical school about opportunities they liked.

Choose an International Clinical Volunteering Opportunity 

International volunteer opportunities offer a unique blend of cultural immersion and hands-on experience. You’ll gain skills that will apply to nearly every part of your medical career, from patient care to strong leadership. 

Global Medical Brigades offers 7-9 day volunteer opportunities to partner communities in Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, Ghana, and Greece. You’ll have the opportunity to work alongside a licensed international healthcare provider in mobile clinics, volunteering with an organization making positive contributions to the global community.

Whether you’re a pre-health college student looking for shadowing experiences or professionals seeking outreach programs, Global Medical Brigades provides clinical volunteer opportunities to help further your professional journey. Our sustainable model allows you to make a lasting impact in the communities you partner with, not just book a trip to pad your résumé.

How can I volunteer at a global health organization? Volunteering with a global health organization like Global Medical Brigades is easy. Just click the button below to sign up or learn more!

Get Involved with Global Medical Brigades


Written By: Alexa