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  • Michael Jones
  • January 09, 2019 02:18:33 PM

A Little About Us

Healthcare Career Resources is a blog for those who work in the healthcare industry. We cover topics ranging from current events to medical humor as well as more career focused topics such as job search and interview tips. We also publish articles written for healthcare human resources and physician recruiters.

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    How to Prevent and Resolve Difficult Patient Encounters

    Having difficult patient encounters is often part of the job when you work in healthcare. Whether it’s helping a grieving family member or defusing an angry patient, your finesse in dealing with these challenging encounters makes a difference in the lives of the people you care...

    How to Handle Challenging Patient Encounters

    If you work on the front lines of patient care, at some point, you will have a patient situation that is challenging, to say the least. One study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that about 15 percent of patient encounters were classified as difficult by the doctor involved. Nurses and allied health professionals may have even higher percentages of difficult situations. How you handle these difficult situations makes a big difference to both your patients and yourself.

    Factors That Contribute to Challenging Patient Encounters

    Healthcare providers, from doctors to nurses to therapists, have challenging patient interactions that occur every day. Those situations can develop for a variety of reasons that may be caused by the patient, healthcare provider, or both.

    For example, patients can be angry, uncooperative, or have unrealistic expectations. Healthcare providers may also contribute to an interaction becoming unpleasant. Long wait times, understaffing, and poor communications, all make the experience worse for the patient, which in turn may lead to hostility.

    In some cases, it’s the situation or the patient’s condition that makes the situation challenging. For example, pain, lack of control, and receiving a poor prognosis may lead to all types of emotions, which may make a patient encounter challenging.

    A challenging situation may also include family members. It may involve family becoming impatient or frustrated with their loved one’s care.

    Strategies for Effectively Dealing with Difficult Situations

    The best way to deal with a potentially tricky situation is to try to prevent it, but that may not always be possible. When you cannot avoid a challenging encounter, there are ways to defuses the situation and prevent it from escalating. Communicating in a respectful and nonjudgmental way is essential, even if you are stressed.

    Although every situation is different, there are some general strategies for dealing with challenging patient interactions, including the following:

    Choose the right words

    From time to time, we can all come across as abrupt or harsh. It might be the words we choose or how we say them. To defuse a potentially difficult situation with a patient, choose your words carefully.

    If a patient feels attacked or like they are not being heard, it immediately may make them defensive or unwilling to listen. Avoid language that sounds judgmental or accusatory. Choose words that are not offensive. Be compassionate and empathetic. That does not mean you skirt around an issue or topic. You can be straightforward while still being sensitive. Also, break down information into small bits that are understandable and don’t overwhelm the patient.

    Defuse the situation

    One of the most challenging situations to deal with is an angry or aggressive patient. The situation can get out of control quickly, which can escalate into a patient hurting staff or himself. Recognizing warning signs that a patient is becoming increasingly angry helps you act fast to defuse the problem.

    Watch for changes in your patient’s body language, including:

    • Tightened jaw
    • Clenched fists
    • Tense posture
    • Raised voice

    If signs such as those above point to a deteriorating emotional state in a patient, there are things you can do to try to deescalate the situation. For example, maintain personal space. Research indicates that when personal space decreases, tension increases.

    Also, remain calm and professional. Spend time with the patient and listen for the real message. Restate the patient’s problem and try to respond to the complaint. If you cannot help immediately, don’t promise something you won’t deliver. Instead, state what you will be able to do.

    Be aware of your nonverbal communication

    Nonverbal communication also sends a message to our patients. For example, if you avoid eye contact and stare at a computer screen while talking to your patients, it may come across as though you are uninterested. While that may not be the case, it is still the impression you may give. In fact, your nonverbal communication is often as important as the words you say.

    Be aware of your gestures, eye contact, and body posture when trying to deal with a challenging patient situation. Keep the tone of your voice calm.

    Get back-up

    In certain situation, it’s best to get assistance. The type of help you need may depend on individual circumstances. For example, you may need security if a patient has a history of becoming violent. In other cases, staff may provide additional support to a patient or her family. For instance, the hospital Chaplin or social worker may be helpful when delivering bad news.

    Having difficult patient encounters is often part of the job when you work in healthcare. Whether it’s helping a grieving family member or defusing an angry patient, your finesse in dealing with these challenging encounters makes a difference in the lives of the people you care for.

    Tips for Acing Your Medical School Interview

    The medical school interview is a time to not only discuss the strengths of your application, but also to address and explain any potential weaknesses. A modest amount of preparation, along with a positive attitude, is all the prospective medical school applicant needs to succeed during the interview process and eventually secure a seat in medical...

    How to Prepare for and Ace Medical School Interviews

    It’s October, and the interview invites are beginning to pile up. You have worked incredibly hard to get to this point, taking 18 credit-hour semesters every year of your undergraduate course work, volunteering at an equal access health clinic, and somehow finding time to shadow your favorite neurosurgeon. Then it hits you, the last time you interviewed for a job, it was for the intramural basketball refereeing position two years ago. Not to worry, here is what you need to prepare for and ACE your medical school interviews!

    What is a medical school interview like?

    While preparing for your interviews, you will likely come across three different types of interviews offered by medical schools across the country and internationally: the ‘open file’ interview, the ‘closed file’ interview and the multiple-mini interview (MMI) format.

    What is an ‘open file’ medical school interview?

    Simply put, open file interviews mean that the interviewer will either have an electronic or a physical copy of your entire application both to prepare for the interview and during the interview itself. These types of interviews typically involve the interviewer perusing your application for potential points of uniqueness or weakness and discussing them with the applicant in detail.

    What is a ‘closed file’ medical school interview?

    A closed file interview, as you might guess, means that the interviewer is conducting the interview ‘cold,’ without prior knowledge of the applicant. These are typically done to allow the conversation to flow naturally and to allow the interviewer to get an unbiased impression of the applicants’ personality and ability to think on their feet and discuss their application intelligently.

    Closed file interviews provide an opportunity for applicants to either steer past their deficiencies and avoid sensitive topics during the interview or directly address them and discuss them with the interviewer. Although it is much less anxiety-inducing to steer clear of potentially sensitive topics, as an interviewer I can share with you that nothing is worse than later discussing an applicant in an admissions committee meeting and finding a number of red flags in their application that were actively avoided in the interview. This will leave the interviewer with a sense of mistrust and may diminish your chances of acceptance. Instead, use a closed file interview as not only a chance to address your strengths but to touch upon and explain any potential weaknesses in your application.

    What is the Multiple-Mini Interview (MMI) format?

    The MMI format utilizes multiple (8-10) stations with short, approximately seven-minute interviews at each station. All stations are different and are focused on topics that vary from healthcare policy to stations comprised of a traditional open file interview. In order to do your best at a medical school that utilizes the MMI format, you should practice concisely answering questions and familiarize yourself with the typical types of questions asked (some medical schools even publish admissions documents which describe past questions or question types).

    Typical medical school interview questions

    Regardless of the interview format, there are several questions that are likely to come up during the medical school interview:

    “Tell me about X experience.”

    This question can be used to examine any type of extra-curricular, shadowing, or research experience listed on your application. The interviewers want depth when they ask this question, and they are asking it usually to assess the degree to which you were involved in the experience. If discussing research, explain the hypothesis that was being tested, the experiments that were conducted to test the hypothesis, and your role in conducting the experiments or generating the resulting posters or academic manuscripts.

    It is worth mentioning, if you cannot talk intelligently about a given experience, or you exaggerate about it on your application, this is where it may hurt your chances. When completing your application, remember that at some point during the interview season you will likely be sitting across from a physician with the power to grant or deny your admission to medical school, and your ability to honestly and intelligently describe your application will directly impact your chances of attending medical school.

    “What makes you think you would be a good physician?”

    Both this question and “Why do you want to go to medical school?” are designed to dig deeper and understand the applicant’s motivation for pursuing medical school. Simply restating a love for science and a calling to help people is not enough. Think of an experience that confirmed your desire for medical school or showed your potential aptitude for it and incorporate that into your response. A story is memorable, and if true, can be very compelling. Before your first interview, consider these questions and practice (do not rehearse verbatim) an appropriate answer that includes a compelling anecdote which exemplifies why you think you would be a good physician or why you are applying to medical school.

    Healthcare delivery and policy

    In addition to questions assessing your aptitude for medicine, almost all medical school interviews involve some form of discussion of health policy. It would be wise to stay current on the news surrounding healthcare during interview season, as your interviewer may bring up current events in the interview. In addition, being able to discuss controversial topics intelligently, such as universal healthcare, euthanasia, and abortion is expected.

    While your answers should be authentic and should stay true to your beliefs, avoid dealing in absolutes as much as possible, as these are likely to offend and can torpedo an otherwise stellar application. At the end of the day, admissions decisions are made after your interviewer writes up his/her impression of you, which can be severely diminished if they perceive that your answers were judgmental or narrow-minded. Overall, the interviewer is assessing your knowledge of core healthcare policy topics and there are usually no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers. I would recommend having an idea of how you would change healthcare if you were able, as well as how you might handle end of life issues. I would also recommend all interviewees look up Medicare and Medicaid and have at least a working knowledge of what they do and the differences between the two programs.


    The medical school interview is a time to not only discuss the strengths of your application, but also to address and explain any potential weaknesses. A modest amount of preparation, along with a positive attitude, is all the prospective medical school applicant needs to succeed during the interview process and eventually secure a seat in medical school.


    Rural Hospital Recruiting: 9 Keys to Advanced Practice Provider Recruitment

    The key to recruitment and retention of rural hospital NPs and PAs is to know why, how, when, and where to source rural focused candidates.

    9 Keys to Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant Recruitment
    Tom Holt/

    The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that by 2026, openings for nurse practitioners (NPs) and Physician Assistants (PAs) will experience a ten-year growth rate of more than 36%. Many of those new grad NPs and PAs will choose to practice in big cities. As these highly talented clinicians are sought and placed in larger communities, the maldistribution of clinicians to rural communities continues. Three factors drive the need for rural hospital recruiters to grow their advanced practice provider workforce: 1) rates of physician recruitment to rural remain low and is far outpaced by demand, 2) across the country, advanced practice providers are pursuing and obtaining expanded scopes of practice with more autonomy, and 3) advanced practice providers provide quality of care comparable to their physician counterparts for lower compensation.

    The question of whether NPs can fill traditional physician roles has largely been settled. Studies of acute care settings show that the appropriateness of NP-delivered care and the perceived quality of that care is comparable to that of physician-delivered care. PAs, whose work is built on a physician/PA supervision model, are also demanding and obtaining expanded scopes of practice across the country. With these expanded scopes comes the opportunity for employment of highly effective clinicians in difficult to fill rural hospital positions. The key to recruitment and retention of rural hospital NPs and PAs is to know why, how, when, and where to source rural focused candidates.

    1. Understand What Expanded Scope Means in Your State. Every state has different scopes of practice for NPs and PAs; it’s important to view these scopes as living documents and stay updated on changes. Ensure clarity around Prescriptive Authority for NPs and PAs. This is especially important if you are seeking to fill a role traditionally filled by a physician, so check and plan accordingly. Important also to scope are the requirements around physician supervision ratios, as well as what supervision entails. New grad rural NPs and PAs need and expect physician supervision that’s accessible and technology based. SMS and other technology-based communication methods should be offered and encouraged when within state supervisory guidelines and with broadband availability.
    2. Define Rural. Too often students or new grads have a pretty vague idea of what rural means in the context of their job opportunity search. During an interview, ask what rural means to your candidates. Look for answers that point to personal experiences and are more heartfelt. One clinician I interviewed for a qualitative study advised that his interest in rural health developed when he was in a children’s hospital for an extended illness. Such learning is generally discovered when asking more probing questions. Be sure to describe in all social media and promotional material how your hospital and opportunity differs from those in larger cities. Highlight those elements that pose exciting challenges – leadership building, working at the top of your practice scope. Don’t downplay the challenges, but instead focus on ways in which hospital staff helps support the new grad clinician.
    3. Look for Rural Roots. Those who grew up in rural communities are more likely to have affinity for and seek opportunities in those communities. Some of this can be gleaned from a CV and a social media search, but a clinician’s history may not be revealed until interviews take place. With our mobile society, many people who aren’t rural have visited relatives who are and have been exposed to rural life. One advanced practice provider student I worked with was fascinated by Appalachian folk medicine and cures because of her own family roots in that culture in the NC mountains. She was clearly going to return to a rural practice setting when she finished training, and she did. In addition to a rural home or rural perspective/background, look for a background in an underserved community. Those from rural and underserved backgrounds share some common roots that include lack of healthcare access, and socio-economic challenges.
    4. Find Candidates Trained in Rural. Some rural-trained clinicians choose to practice in non-rural settings, but most will seek to practice in rural communities upon training completion. Those recruiters in the rural primary care physician world are familiar with the Rural Residency Training model; rural advanced practice provider training programs are a newer model that offers immersion in rural settings and clinical skill development. Some programs that aren’t rural host rotations that expose advanced practice provider students to rural life and clinical experiences, all of which help them rule-in or rule-out rural practice. Check with your local Area Health Education Consortium (AHEC) to determine which academic programs sponsor rural or underserved care rotations in your state and be sure to reach out to those students or new grads.
    5. Connect with Students and Faculty. Advanced Practice Program Faculty and staff are seeking non-clinical tools – real world skills – for their students. Offer to do a presentation on seeking your first job out of graduate school. This is a great way to connect with and get to know advanced practice provider students and faculty. In work with several SC advanced practice programs, I learned quickly that faculty members will often share with you (quietly) who they view as the stars of their programs. Assuming a baseline of solid clinical skills, the skillsets most valued in a new grad advanced practice provider include a “self-starter” personality; a genuine, caring demeanor; excellent time-management skills; and team-orientation. Most faculty and academic programs will also be happy to share your job postings with their upcoming grads and students.
    6. Seek the second careerist. As is common in many fields, those embarking on second (or even third careers) typically have lived experience that can translate into leadership skills. These leaders make excellent rural clinicians and may serve as catalysts for change and growth in rural communities. The reason behind second career seeking may be tied to an “A-Ha moment” that involves looking for more meaning in one’s life. Making a transition to healthcare, and more specifically rural healthcare, is made for those seeking more meaningful connections with others.
    7. Consider the Power Couple. People are delaying marriage and couple-hood later and later; it makes sense that the healthcare world would reflects this as well. Many Advanced Practice Provider/MD couples meet while in the healthcare space, either through interdisciplinary student rotations, or similar connections. If in your sourcing and screening you discover a couple that’s rural-oriented, seek creative ways to help employ both or connect one with appropriate employment outside of your hospital to recruit the other. Recruiting and retaining this power couple may bring additional challenges, but the value they bring is worth your time and energy.
    8. Search Local. You’d be surprised how many rural clinicians find out about jobs at their church or through other rural communication methods (read “grapevine”.) Go local when looking for your rural talent; you may find there are clinical staff in your hospital training to become advanced practice providers. What better fit than someone trained in your culture who lives or works in the community already? Living in rural means you also know your community members and their families. Maybe your rural pharmacist’s daughter is working on a degree as a Physician Assistant – she may be a perfect candidate for your rural opportunity.
    9. Cast A Wide Net. Work with the American Nurses Association (ANA), the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), and the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). These organizations have state and regional members with whom you can work to recruit your rural NP and PA workforce. These heavy hitters also host annual conferences where APRNs and PAs get the bulk of their continuing education. Exhibiting is a volume opportunity to talk to students and new grads and hone-in on those with rural affinity. As it goes with rural, connection with people is key, and knowing with whom to connect is critical to building a strong and stable advanced practice workforce for your hospital and community.

    Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant Recruitment Resources

    Nurse Practitioner / Physician Assistant Scope of Practice Issues

    Find NP/PA Candidates Trained in Rural

    Exhibiting Opportunities to Meet Potential NP/PA Job Candidates

    Effective Advertising Option for Rural NP/PA Jobs

    How Can Board Certification Further Your Nursing Career?

    There are several reasons that a nurse should consider pursing a professional certification. Some of the more prominent reasons include improvement in career opportunities, the ability to stand out in your specialty, and increased opportunities for professional...

    Advancing Your Nursing Career Through Board Certification
    Cathy Yeulet/

    Board certification is perhaps one of the most underutilized methods that nurses have available for advancing their nursing careers. Board certifications are issued by professional organizations to nurses who have met the criteria that each particular organization sets to obtain that certification. These certifications focus on individual specialties and sub-specialties of nursing and cover almost every area in which a nurse can work. Obtaining a certification always involves an exam that is tested as securely as the NCLEX and may also require having a certain number of clinical hours within a particular care environment. Nurses who have board certification can indicate this by including the initials of the professional certification in their signature or name after their academic and licensure related initials.

    Benefits of Certification

    There are several reasons that a nurse should consider pursing a professional certification. Some of the more prominent reasons include improvement in career opportunities, the ability to stand out in your specialty, and increased opportunities for professional development.

    Stand out

    Few nurses actually take the time to study for and achieve a professional certification. The American Association of Critical Care Nurses, for example, reports that there are about 500,000 critical care nurses, but also reports that there are only about 15,000 critical care nurses who have their CCRN, the professional certification for critical care nurses. Obtaining a board certification will make you stand out from your peers.

    Demonstrate your knowledge and experience

    Nurses who have board certification in a specialty are regarded as more experienced and more knowledgeable in that area of nursing. Having a board certification will show your peers and your employer that you have achieved the next level of expertise in your specialty.

    More career opportunities

    Nurses who have board certification in a specialty will have a much better chance of getting hired for a position in that specialty. Nurse managers recognize that nurses who are board certified in a specialty are more experienced and more knowledgeable in that area than most other applicants. Board certification also establishes you as a leader in your knowledge about your specialty and provides more opportunities for promotion and advancement.

    Professional development

    Almost all board certifications require ongoing clinical education that will help to maintain and further your professional development and knowledge in your specialty. Even the act of studying for the certification exam will enhance your professional knowledge, due to the content you will have to be familiar with in order to pass.

    Obtaining Certification

    Obtaining your professional certification will involve several steps but is not complicated. The process does vary based on the type of board certification being pursued and the professional organization that issues the certification.


    The eligibility requirements for board certifications vary, depending on the type of certification. All board certifications for nurses require an active nursing license, but the verification process is typically quick and painless. Many board certifications require, or strongly suggest, a minimum number of hours within the specialty that you are applying for certification in. If there is no required minimum number of hours in the specialty, but there is a strong recommendation for how many hours you have completed, then it is normally best not to apply for certification until you have met the recommended level of experience. The tests are normally tailored to be easier for someone with experience, and the likelihood that you will succeed at the test is low if you do not have the recommended experience.


    The cost of taking the exam for a certification varies, but is typically $200-$400. Many employers will offer to reimburse the cost of the exam if you pass, and some may even pay for the initial test. Some employers will also pay for, or reimburse for, study materials or classes. One way of lowering the cost for a certification exam can be to become a member of the professional organization associated with the certification. While there will typically be an annual membership fee, members will often have access to better pricing for certification examination and study materials that non-members may not have.


    Before you take the certification exam, you should find study materials for that certification and take the time to review the information that could be in the exam. Many exams have a wait period for retesting if you fail the first time, so studying so that you can pass initially is always advised.


    Certification exams are almost always administered under the same testing conditions as the NCLEX. Expect a high level of security and familiarize yourself with computer test taking, if necessary. While the exam will be tested on a computer like the NCLEX, it will often consist of questions from a question bank with a minimum percentage needed to pass, instead of using a complex testing algorithm like the NCLEX.

    Board certification in your specialty can have a significant impact on you as a nurse, both professionally and personally. If you are considering board certification, you should visit your specialty’s professional organization for more information about what certifications are available to you.


    The Road to Medical School

    The road to medical school is a long and rewarding journey that prepares you for residency and the process of becoming a physician. It is only one part of the journey, but it is the important beginning of the marathon.

    How to Get into Medical School
    Wavebreak Media Ltd/

    From Dr. House to Meredith Grey and even Dr. Who, physicians are embedded everywhere in pop culture. The usual stereotype is a confident, all-knowing doctor who walks into a scene of panic and despair and instantly provides calm while solving the urgent problem. Does anyone ever ask, “How are they so calm?” or “Why do they seem to know so much?” While TV doctors are a caricature of the reality of being a physician, they do possess some of the same attributes medical schools want to instill in the future doctors of the world. Being a physician means being calm in the face of adversity and attempting to do your best to help your patients on what is often one of the worst days of their lives. But what does it take to become a physician?

    The road to medical school is a long and rewarding journey that prepares you for residency and the process of becoming a physician. It is only one part of the journey, but it is the important beginning of the marathon. Before we delve into the details of what it takes to make it to medical school, let’s review the process from a bird’s eye view:

    Step 1 – Is medicine right for me?

    Step 2 – Complete the medical school prerequisite courses

    Step 3 – Get involved with extracurricular activities such as volunteering, research, and physician shadowing

    Step 4 – ACE the MCAT

    Step 5 – Complete the medical school primary application, secondary applications, and interviews. Then sit back and let the acceptances roll in.

    These are just five of the major points along the road to medical school. Below we will address specific questions and topics to help guide you on your journey.

    How do I know if medicine is right for me?

    Whether you are a high school student considering medicine for the first time, or an investment banker who has decided that finance isn’t for you, this question is the most important question for the pre-medical student to answer. The road to medical school is long, but the road after medical school is even longer! Simply deciding that medicine sounds fun because of what your friends have told you or because of what family has said is no substitute for your own experiences.

    The single best way to explore what doctors do and what it takes to become a physician is to “shadow” a physician, which involves following one as they see and treat patients. This direct experience will help separate fact from fiction and is an essential part to deciding: “Is medicine what I thought it would be?” and “Is this what I want to do with my life?”

    To put it simply, from pre-medical coursework to becoming a practicing physician is approximately 11 years of your life – how much information do you want to have before you make that decision?

    How do I become a doctor?

    Ok, so you have done your homework. You have shadowed local physicians, read pre-medical guidebooks and you’ve found that you don’t instantly faint at the sight of blood. What next?

    After you have decided that medicine is right for you, creating a plan to enroll in and ace the required pre-medical courses is the next step.

    What pre-med courses are required?

    While the list can vary among medical schools, a general recommendation for pre-medical course requirements includes:

    2 semesters of biology (with labs)

    2 semesters of chemistry (with labs)

    2 semesters of organic chemistry (with labs)

    2 semesters of physics (with labs)

    1 semester of biochemistry

    1 semester of statistics

    In addition to these requirements, some schools may require different math courses (1 vs 2 semesters of calculus or even no calculus at all). Depending on the schools you eventually choose to apply to, some may not even require any form of math coursework.

    Can I meet these requirements with community college or AP/IB credit?

    This is one of the most commonly asked questions by pre-medical students and is a great question to consider. In general, admissions committees will want to see most pre-requisite work completed at the university level. This ensures an appropriate level of rigor and allows them to compare (almost) apples to apples.

    Another factor to bear in mind when deciding is that, as an applicant, you want the highest possible science GPA that you can achieve. If you exempt out of the initial, introductory courses, you are passing up an easy A that will help solidify an excellent science GPA for medical school. Additionally, most universities teach science courses much more rigorously than an AP/IB course, and you may be setting yourself up for failure if you skip the introductory course and immediately begin more rigorous science courses (and potentially get a C or worse!).

    Some medical schools even have policies that prevent them from accepting advanced placement and/or community college coursework. By going this route, you may be limiting the pool of medical schools to which you can potentially apply.

    In consideration of these reasons, it is generally recommended that pre-medical students take all the core pre-medical requirements at the institution  where they will be receiving their degree.

    What pre-med major is the best?

    There is no recommended pre-med major for admission to medical school. In fact, as part of their mission to promote the diversity of incoming classes, many admissions committees look favorably on majors that may be traditionally underrepresented in medical schools. The best major for aspiring pre-medical students is the major they are most interested in. Choosing a major that excites you will make the long hours spent studying easier and provide purpose to focus you during the pre-med years.

    For students considering traditionally more difficult majors (physics, mathematics, engineering), don’t shy away from those majors because you’re worried about maintaining a 4.0 GPA. As part of the holistic admissions process, most medical school admissions committees will consider the perceived difficulty of a major. This is not an excuse to slack or underachieve and expect an admissions committee to curve your GPA, but rather encouragement that a 3.8 mechanical engineering GPA will not be assessed in an identical context as a 3.8 political science GPA.

    Again, no matter the major that you choose, ACING your prerequisite courses is essential; these will be the courses against which all pre-meds are being compared regardless of chosen major.

    What extra-curriculars do I need for medical school?

    While doing well in the pre-med coursework may feel like a challenge on its own, medical schools want students who can handle multiple projects at once. Throughout your journey on the road to medical school, you will want to explore extracurricular opportunities such as: physician shadowing, volunteering, and research.

    What is physician shadowing?

    As was alluded to earlier in this article, physician shadowing is a key experience on the road to medical school. While this is an important aspect of deciding whether to pursue medical school, you should not simply stop shadowing once you have made the decision that medicine is right for you. Medical schools want applicants who know what the profession of medicine demands. The road to becoming a fully licensed physician is a long, hard road full of self-sacrifice for the good of the patient. One aspect of the medical school application that best demonstrates applicants’ understanding of what it means to be a physician is simple: how much time have they spent with physicians, and what kind of experiences have resulted from this time?

    There is no magic amount of physician shadowing that medical school admissions committees are looking for; however, most advisors would recommend at least 2-3 discrete experiences over a longitudinal time period to allow the pre-med to fully appreciate the shadowing experience and learn the different aspects involved with the physician’s duties. Additionally, while it is important to have goals on the road to medical school, the pre-med years are not the time to narrow your focus. In general, medical schools want applicants who want to be doctors first, not applicants who apply with the sole goal of becoming a pediatric cardiac interventionalist. Because of this, shadowing physicians across multiple specialties is advisable, as it will demonstrate that you have a broad understanding of what it means to be a physician.

    Do I need volunteering to apply to medical school?

    The short answer to this question is: YES! Volunteering, whatever the project, allows you to learn valuable teamwork skills along with project management and fostering a sense of altruism. From an admissions committee’s perspective, volunteering allows the applicant to demonstrate multiple desirable personality traits.

    What do medical schools look for in applicants?

    Luckily for you, the Association of American Medical Colleges has spelled out exactly what personality traits they value: AAMC Core Competencies. Understanding these competencies will not only help you with self-assessment and reflection, they will help you understand what medical schools are looking for with personal statements, interviews, and even why they care so much about volunteering!

    Back to volunteering…

    A longitudinal volunteering experience during the pre-medical years allows an applicant to demonstrate not only altruism and an orientation towards service, but also dedication, reliability, and dependability. These skills are the same skills that will help you flourish during medical school and residency. Therefore, volunteering is an essential part of your pre-medical experience. It complements the academic accomplishments of completing your prerequisite courses and your MCAT.

    While many applicants choose volunteering experiences that are clinically oriented, this is not necessary. The most important facet of volunteering is to find an organization or a project that resonates with you. Accomplishing great things over time and helping your chosen project to flourish are significantly more important than finding a clinical volunteering experience. Medical schools will teach you medicine; they want to know that you are passionate, altruistic, and dedicated.

    Do I need research to get into medical school?

    While research experience can be an excellent addition to your medical school application, it is not an absolute necessity. Again, you should follow your passions when pursuing your pre-med extracurriculars. If you don’t see yourself as a ‘research person’, a short experience in a lab would still be helpful to understand the process of planning, conducting, and reporting research. If after this, you still don’t feel inspired or compelled to continue, concentrate on the other aspects of your pre-medical education. Keep in mind, if you are relatively ‘weak’ in one aspect, devoting more time to a complimentary area (volunteering or shadowing) may help when the admissions committee is holistically reviewing your application.

    If you decide that research is for you, continue to pursue it. The research experience does not have to be basic science or even ‘hard-science’ related. When the admissions committee evaluates your research experiences, they are assessing how involved you were with the project, and if you can intelligently discuss the contributions that you made to the research project. Contributing and presenting your psychology research at a national meeting would be looked upon much more favorably than simply participating in a neuroscience laboratory.

    How do I prepare for the MCAT?

    There is no way around it – the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is one of the most important stops on the road to medical school. Because there is no way to know what medical schools will consider a ‘good’ score to compliment your extracurriculars and GPA, it is important to maximize your score on this exam.

    There is no set time to take the MCAT for everyone. Most authors recommend taking the MCAT only after you have completed the accompanying pre-requisites (physics, chemistry, biology, and biochemistry). For many applicants, this time is at some point in the junior year of their undergraduate education. When planning for your MCAT test date, consider how many credit hours you are planning to take during the semester you will be sitting for the test. Many applicants have found that taking the test during the summer allows them ample study time in a low stress environment, potentially boosting their scores.

    When it comes to preparing for the MCAT, repetition is key. Multiple companies offer in-person and online preparation services along with comprehensive practice question banks. Just like surgical residents who practice their knot tying before ever scrubbing in on a surgery, pre-meds should have taken many practice MCATs before ever sitting for their actual MCAT. The more test preparation you complete prior to the ‘big day’, the more confident you will feel and the lower the likelihood you will encounter totally new material or concepts.

    Applying to medical school

    For traditional and non-traditional applicants alike, you should apply to medical school the year before you hope to begin. For example, if you want to begin medical school Fall 2021, you will want to submit your application materials in the summer of 2020. There are multiple application services for U.S. medical schools including the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS), and Texas Medical and Dental School Application Service (TMDSAS). AMCAS is the service for American M.D. medical schools outside of Texas, TMDSAS is specific for Texas medical schools, and AACOMAS is the official application service utilized to apply to osteopathic (D.O.) medical schools. The individual application dates vary according to the application year and which specific application service you are utilizing.

    What is a ‘secondary application’?

    For AAMCAS, you will receive secondary applications shortly after submitting your primary AMCAS application. These secondary applications require the applicant to answer essay-style questions that usually inquire about specific personality attributes, why the applicant is pursuing medicine, or why the applicant thinks he/she is a ‘good fit’ for a specific school. These applications usually require the payment of an additional application fee. Completing secondary applications quickly is key, as most medical schools will not consider an applicant for an interview until they have reviewed the primary and secondary applications.

    What comes next?

    After you complete your secondary applications, you will receive interview invitations from medical schools that are interested in you as a candidate. We will cover how to prepare for and ACE medical school interviews in a following blog post, stay tuned!


    Acing the Basics of Rural Hospital Workforce and Recruitment

    The savvy rural hospital recruiter will seek a primer to gain expertise and build skill in four core rural healthcare workforce areas: 1) The Value of Rural Definitions and Designations, 2) Partners and Resources in Rural Hospital Recruitment, 3) Rural Hospital Recruitment Communities and 4) Fluency in the Language of Rural...

    The New Rural Hospital Recruiter - Acing the Basics of Rural Healthcare Workforce
    James Kirkikis/

    You’ve just landed a new role as a rural hospital recruiter. Or maybe you’re an experienced hospital recruiter whose employer has acquired a small rural hospital. Traditional hospital recruitment strategies are the backbone of any recruiter’s wheelhouse, but you’ll need specialized tools for success in rural hospital recruitment. Too often, rural hospital recruiter onboarding doesn’t include education around the rural healthcare workforce. The savvy rural hospital recruiter will seek a primer to gain expertise and build skill in four core rural healthcare workforce areas: 1) The Value of Rural Definitions and Designations, 2) Partners and Resources in Rural Hospital Recruitment, 3) Rural Hospital Recruitment Communities and 4) Fluency in the Language of Rural Communities.

    The Value of Rural Definitions and Designations

    First Things First – “Am I Rural?”  Rural hospital status impacts your workforce capacity building and can help inform recruitment strategies. At last count, there were around 15 commonly used definitions of rural in federal government. The Office of Management and Budget defines a county as non-metro (or rural) if there is no adjacent Census Urban Area with a population over 50,000 or there are no large areas nearby where workers regularly commute. The premiere resource for determining rural status is the “Am I Rural” website tool at Determining your hospital’s rural designation will help include or exclude programs or other benefits to your hospital and community, including grant opportunities. Bear in mind that other definitions related to rural come into play in rural hospital recruitment, like Health Professional Shortage Areas (but more about that later).

    Know Rural Hospital Designations.  The size of your small hospital is relevant to your rural hospital capacity building approach. Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) provide vital community-based healthcare for highly rural communities, have fewer than 25 beds, and provide limited inpatient care. CAHs are located more than a 35-mile drive from any other hospital or CAH. Small rural hospitals with 49 available beds or less are eligible for Small Health Improvement Program (SHIP) Funding, which helps them develop value and quality healthcare improvement initiatives. All CAHs are also SHIP hospitals. Engaging the primary care workforce early and often is critical to recruiting for SHIP hospitals. Rural hospital staff and primary care providers often have an interdependent relationship. At a minimum, primary care physicians or advanced practice providers may round at the hospital, but they often fill other hospital and community leadership roles, both formally and informally. Having buy-in from those in the primary care arena is critical to selling your hospital-based opportunities to candidates and assuring a good fit for the right candidate in your hospital and community.

    Partners and Resources in Rural Hospital Recruitment

    Partner with your State Office of Rural Health. State Offices of Rural Health (SORHs) may be the best kept secret in the world of rural hospital recruitment. Every state has a SORH, funded through federal and state dollars. A SORH’s core mission typically involves initiatives to build rural healthcare infrastructure through workforce and other capacity building. SORHs often have dedicated staff around rural workforce and recruitment. SORH workforce staff can be your hospital’s advocate and promoter in your state’s healthcare professional and residency programs -closed-door policies to recruiters, making this workforce liaison critical to your work.  More broadly, SORH staff have deep relationships with key members of rural communities and can facilitate introductions to those leaders. The National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH), a private not for profit, is a key resource for rural hospital recruiters seeking connection with their state’s SORH (

    Leverage Rural Venues like the National Rural Recruitment and Retention Network.  Established in the late 90s, the National Rural Recruitment and Retention Network ( levels the playing field of rural healthcare provider recruitment. 3RNet members are housed in state-based organizations and liaise with healthcare employers from rural hospitals, Federally Qualified Health Centers, Rural Health Clinics, and other underserved care settings. 3RNet members identify and screen rural-oriented physicians, nurse practitioners, psychiatrists, hospital physicians, and a host of others through a national platform and database. Some 3RNet state members offer rural hospital job promotion at low cost while others share promotion without cost. Each 3RNet member highlights its state’s attributes on web pages and connects directly with rural-oriented providers who sign up for the site. Check with your state 3RNet member about its policies around rural hospital job promotion. Finally, the 3RNet’s Academy learning series is tailored to engage rural recruiters from a bootcamp perspective to a higher level, more nuanced recruitment role. This six-webinar series is reasonably priced and offered throughout the fall and early winter (

    Identify Applicable Loan Repayment Programs.  Understanding federal and other loan repayment programs is an important part of rural hospital recruitment. Through HRSA’s National Health Service Corps loan repayment program (NHSC LRP), clinical staff in ambulatory primary care settings is eligible for federal loan repayment programs ( CAH hospital-based clinicians may be eligible for NHSC LRP, provided they are co-located in ambulatory primary care practices. To be eligible for NHSC’s loan repayment program, all hospital or ambulatory care sites must go through a rigorous site application. NHSC LRP awards are prioritized by highest Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) scores and a measure of available, primary health care services at the facility, community, or county level. The national opioid epidemic has driven HRSA funding for Substance Use Disorder loan repayment for a subset of behavioral health care clinicians as well ( Though extremely competitive, the HRSA Nurse CORP Loan Repayment program is open to hospital-based nurses in critical shortage areas. This program prioritizes funding based on shortage area and high debt to salary ratio ( Some states host loan repayment programs (SLRP) open to hospital clinical staff, while others have rural-specific scholarships for medical students planning to work in rural hospitals ( Learn which programs your hospital clinical staff or candidates are eligible for to tailor language for job promotion and dissemination.

    Rural Hospital Recruitment Communities

    Build your Personal Rural Hospital Recruitment Network IRL and Online.  Look for like-minded rural hospital recruiters at partnering organizations. When joining the Association for Advancing Physician and Provider Recruitment (AAPPR), be sure to also connect with your AAPPR regional or state-based affiliate. Members from these affiliates will be an invaluable resource to tackle common rural hospital recruitment challenges and serve as your new recruiter sounding board. If your affiliate has a rural focused group – get involved. If no such work or initiative exists, offer to lead and develop one. Look for your state’s SHIP hospital list to identify other potential recruitment mentors. If you are physically located in a SHIP hospital or can commute there, join local business groups to gain familiarity with the community and an understanding of their priorities. For those in large systems recruiting for rural hospitals, stay engaged via social media through community and hospital efforts. Use the hashtags #goodforrural and #powerofrural to network with likeminded folks both in and out of healthcare.

    Fluency in the Language of Rural Communities

    Promote a Passion for Rural While Finding Balance. There’s an age-old and hopefully now settled debate around clinicians living in the communities in which they serve. You should curb any expectation that all new providers will live in the community. Some will, others won’t. In the past, rural healthcare professionals largely accepted that working and living in the community meant providing on the spot diagnoses at school functions or the grocery store. A colleague of mine once described a patient who sometimes showed up at the local rural provider’s house seeking medical care outside of practice hours. Today, healthcare providers expect and deserve work/life balance (and separation.) It’s no longer necessary for the rural hospital recruiter to sell the community to the candidate in terms of planting roots through home ownership. Focus on the amenities – no bumper-to-bumper traffic, beautiful landscapes, the delicious lunch at the local grocery store (yes, rural grocery stores do serve the best lunches, especially in the South). There’s a delicate balance in highlighting the importance of provider connection with the community while not expecting them to live there. When it comes to discussing avenues for play/leisure, shopping, and schools systems, don’t try to downplay, but describe what’s available in proximity to your rural community if these are either inaccessible or lacking in quality. Lastly, get to know the community. Learn how residents view it to shape your perspective, which will help you promote the community to candidates in a comprehensive, authentic, and favorable light. For help with identifying your hospital and community assets, consult with Dr. Dave Schmitz and the Community Apgar Program ( This evidence-based program helps identify assets and gaps in rural hospital/community alignment around workforce and recruitment initiatives.

    Align with Rural Community Attitudes. Every rural hospital is a living product of healthcare providers and citizens working together to sustain community-based, timely hospital care, often in the face of socio-economics challenges and geography. Too often members of rural communities have experienced a loss – be it the closing of a manufacturing plant down the street, or a merger falling through that promised new jobs. Building trust is paramount and tough to do. It comes down to people – meeting, connecting with, and finding a common goal – an engaged, retained healthcare workforce to help your rural hospital and community thrive. When matched with the core facets of rural healthcare workforce, the key to successful rural hospital recruitment comes down to authentic connection with people.

    Advertise Rural Healthcare Positions at! is also an ideal venue for advertising rural healthcare positions. Our job boards are both highly visible to healthcare job seekers, and economical for healthcare recruiters. View our pricing info here, and feel free to contact us with any questions.

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