If you're thinking about medical or other professional school, gaining significant clinical experience will give you confidence as you apply to graduate programs. Grand Rapids stands out among college towns with its countless opportunities to get experience, with its impressive Medical Mile and numerous other healthcare complexes.

Getting clinical experience will help you find out early if you are really interested in a medical career. Ask yourself what kind of a medical professional you would really like to be; what specialty can you see yourself doing? These are just a few ways to find clinical experiences:

Get a job providing service in a medical setting

In the Grand Rapids area there are several major health systems and specialty hospitals as well as numerous extended care facilities. Students who work as Certified Nursing Assistants gain skills and experience along with their paychecks.

See more details about places you could work and volunteer.


This involves following a health provider around to see what their job is all about. This is a great first step. You won't have any responsibilities while shadowing, but you can observe and ask questions while you stay out of the way.

Basic science research

This is a step up from shadowing. You can volunteer or get a job in a hospital clinical department, pharmaceutical company, at Calvin in one of the science departments, or at Calvin's West Michigan Regional Lab. These are all excellent options. Getting some experience doing research, or even cleaning cages, is helpful because you gain an understanding of research methodology. While you are an undergraduate, take advantage of any opportunity you have to hear medical research presentations.

Clinical research

If you can get experience in clinical research, that would be extremely valuable. This would most likely be in a hospital or clinic associated with a medical school. Your role may as a volunteer who is willing to do anything that is needed. You might be fortunate enough to help enroll subjects in clinical studies. An opportunity like this will give you patient contact and you might ultimately contribute enough to be an associate author on a published paper.

How do you get this experience?
  • Take advantage of the service learning center, a robust resource for connecting students to opportunities for learning through experience.
  • Approach the Calvin professors who are doing research that interests you.
  • Ask the doctors, dentists and veterinarians who you know.
  • Talk to the veterinarians who work at the West Michigan Regional Lab.

Set up appointments with these people. Treat it like a practice interview. Talk about your interest in a medical career. Ask about the research they have done or are doing. Explain that you are thinking about going to medical (dental/veterinary) school and that in order to make up your mind you would like to see first-hand what taking care of patients is all about. Mention that you are willing to do anything to get your foot in the door and be involved in their clinical research.


Teri Crumb

Teri Crumb

Pre-Health Professions Advising Coordinator
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