Remote/Virtual Experiences in Health Professions

COVID-19 has created uncertainty and disruption for everyone but your professional development doesn’t need to stop during this time. Medical and professional schools have repeatedly assured pre-health advisors and prospective students that for the upcoming application cycles, they will value experiences that show creativity, adaptability, and continuing engagement. Now is your time to think outside the box and find creative ways to show your commitment to medicine and your community.

Be sure to read and watch the AAMC’s webpage and webinar about how to demonstrate competencies in an unconventional application cycle. You can also view the Heartland Premed Conference’s webinar on finding clinical experience during COVID.

A note for students interested in tracks other than MD/DO: most of the health professions value competencies very similar to those for medicine. Adapt the suggestions here for your desired profession. For example, pre-dental students should include activities that develop motor dexterity and visual-spatial reasoning. Pre-vet students should look for opportunities to engage with and learn about a variety of large and small animal species. Nursing, PT, and PA often are especially interested in your understanding of the scope of practice for the profession, evidence of your interpersonal skills, and your decision-making process when faced with ethical dilemmas.

Here are ideas for activities you can do during required periods of social distancing and self-isolation:

  1. Donate blood. Contact the American Red Cross or your local blood bank.
  2. In-person shadowing will likely not be possible for some time. While you might try networking to find telemedicine shadowing opportunities, another option is to read practitioner blogs online to gain insight into the profession; see these examples at, and If you’re thinking about dental medicine, Michigan and Penn offer exploratory courses on Coursera. Pre-vet students can check out the AVMA “My Veterinary Life” podcast and Vet Candy’s “In Other News” podcast to learn more about veterinarians’ journeys into the profession and issues impacting practitioners today.
  3. We don’t yet know how virtual shadowing will be reviewed by professional schools but in the short term, it may be a good way to start orienting yourself to the profession. Check out all the options on this page.
  4. Investigate whether your state is hiring short-term contact tracers. Or learn how contact tracing works: Johns Hopkins is offering free training on Coursera. Join NARAP’s national contact tracing registry.
  5. Help members within your own community. Volunteer to deliver meals, groceries, and prescriptions for elderly or homebound neighbors. Many communities are packing and delivering lunches for school children who are no longer receiving free or reduced lunch at area schools. Foodbanks are now even more vital for most communities. If you’re part of a religious community or have volunteered with local agencies previously, check with them to see if there are ways to continue supporting them. While participating in service activities, always keep in mind social distancing guidelines and directives of your local and state governments regarding self-isolation or sheltering-at-home. *Located in Illinois? Check out the opportunities to help in your community at Serve Illinois. In Virginia? Take a look at Students Assist America.
  6. Use, and local volunteer databases to look for virtual opportunities. Be a virtual tutor for local K-12 students who are learning from home. Assist a blind or low-vision individual through Be My Eyes. Get trained as a crisis counselor for the Crisis Text Line. Or check out these virtual service-learning projects in a variety of disciplines.
  7. Read books and watch documentaries that provide insight into healthcare careers. Check out reading lists from the University of Minnesota and the NAAHP. Excellent films include Being Mortal, The UndertakingThe Waiting Room, and Black Women in Medicine. Prefer podcasts? Subscribe to The NocturnistsThe Health Equity PodcastMoving MedicineThe Short Coat, and the AMA Journal of Ethics.
  8. Learn more about the next step in your education: Surf through websites for medical or professional schools in your home state to learn about requirements and special programs. Listen to the All Access Medical School Admissions podcast. Attend Virtual Fairs, virtual open houses, and other educational opportunities online. The NAAHP maintains a calendar of virtual events for a variety of professions.
  9. Engage in free online learning opportunities, like this class about pandemics from Harvard or one about community change in public health from Johns Hopkins or essentials of global health from Yale. Or dive into medical humanities with Brown University’s Artful Medicine or Beyond Medical Histories courses.
  10. Take advantage of free professional development opportunities through LinkedIn Learning. Or check out this series on managing your career in uncertain times from UC-Davis Continuing and Professional Education. Coursera also offers a number of free courses on personal and professional development.
  11. Consider a literature review on a research topic. Identify a topic of interest, search databases (PubMed, Google Scholar, etc.) for primary literature, and create an annotated bibliography. This is a good way to develop depth of knowledge and expertise while developing a key skill for future research work.
  12. Study for the MCAT, GRE, or relevant admission test. Links to the exams and test prep resources can be found on GrinnellShare.
  13. Do some reflection and journaling. Explore the AAMC’s Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students and work through the Anatomy of an Applicant self-assessment guide. Princeton’s Health Professions Advising office has collected secondary essay questions you can use a journal prompts on their Facebook page.
  14. Keep taking good care of yourself! The CDC has resources for managing stress and anxiety related to COVID-19 and several health and wellness apps are offering free premium services. Be sure to check SHAW’s resources for support as well.

Need more ideas? Check out this crowdsourced document from the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions for additional resources and opportunities. Also, read “Side Gigs for Good During COVID-19” and “More Side Gigs for Good During COVID-19” (Penn Today) to see examples of pre-health students making a difference.