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Extracurricular Activities for the Aspiring Nurse
The medical field can be a competitive one. From doctors to physician’s assistants to nurses and techs, this field provides many profitable and stable career options. If you’re considering a career in medicine, specifically as a nurse, you might be wondering what you can do now, in high school, to set yourself up for success further down the line.
The importance of extracurriculars in high school cannot be understated. Not only are they an integral and often determining factor in college admissions decisions, but also they help to shape your growth as a person. Through extracurriculars, you can develop leadership ability, hone your organization and time management skills, and broaden your horizons through diverse experiences.
If you’re considering a career in nursing, you may wonder what types of extracurricular pursuits will serve you best. To begin thinking about this, you should understand that there are really three primary goals of any extracurricular activity.
One goal is for the activity to prepare you for a future career path. This means pursuing activities directly related to your intended career. Another goal is for extracurriculars to set you apart in college admissions. This means demonstrating exceptional leadership and dedication through your participation in them. And last but certainly not least, the final goal of extracurriculars should be the pursuit of activities that you genuinely enjoy. To get the most from your experiences, you’ll need to possess a true passion for these pursuits.
In this post, we will outline a few possible extracurricular activities for future nurses. We will focus primarily on activities that prepare you for the career path and/or set you apart in college admissions, but we hope that you’ll remember your own passions too. While we can’t speak directly to each of them, pursuing extracurricular activities that you’re passionate about is always a smart move. Just because the JV soccer team has no bearing on your future career in medicine and isn’t particularly impressive on a college application, if it brings you joy and you can speak to its value in your life, it’s worth doing.
For an outline of smart extracurricular choices to shape your future as a nurse and impress college admissions committees, keep reading.
Volunteer or Service Work
It’s no secret that a career in medicine requires selfless dedication to serving others. While some people might be drawn initially to these careers for the paycheck or the job security, those who will thrive in them need to be committed to their service.
If you’re intent on becoming a nurse, extracurriculars in the volunteer or service sector are a great choice. You might think that you need to find an opportunity directly related to the medical field, but this isn’t actually the case. As made clear through Harvard’s recent Making Caring Common campaign, the most meaningful experiences come from forming relationships with the people and community around you and from participating in projects that are personally relevant.
Think about the issues that affect your community and life. Try to come up with a way to get involved with the issues that are most important to you personally. Does your grandmother get lonely at her assisted living facility? Volunteer to organize a board game night with visitors and residents. Does your community have high rates of homelessness? Volunteer at a local shelter or start an awareness campaign to educate others about ways that they can help. By choosing a cause that’s personally important to you, you merge your passion to serve with your compassion for those around you.
Many students are curious about service projects in the medical field. You may have heard about medical or clinical service programs abroad that provide high school students with the opportunity to deliver medical care or supplies in remote regions. These are generally advertised as service trips and often double as adventures abroad. Trips such as these are often expensive and can be emotionally draining. We recommend that you consider these options carefully.
If you pursue one of these opportunities, you will be working with real people experiencing actual trauma, and your resources to truly help them will be limited. It can be a powerful but sometimes taxing experience. Further, these service trips are usually relatively short, allowing only minimal time to give back to the community you’re serving. Your role will necessarily be somewhat superficial and you’ll rarely have time to make meaningful connections with those you’re serving. It’s hard to build the connections over time that make an experience truly valuable.
It’s often more meaningful and practical to get involved with a local cause close to home. This way you can build a relationship over time with those you’re serving and you can choose a cause that’s personally relevant to you.
Medical or Clinical Work
Working in a medical or clinical setting is another good option for future nurses. Your experiences in a professional medical setting will provide insight into daily life as a practitioner, and you will get a better idea of what goes on behind the scenes. These types of real world experiences also make great material for interviews and essays. Rather than waxing poetic about why you want to become a nurse, you’ll be able to give concrete reasons backed by actual experience.
In most cases, your age will probably restrict you from certain privileges in a medical setting, like working directly with patients, but some care facilities will hire high school aged students to deliver meals, change linens, or complete basic data entry tasks.
While these roles may not sound exciting, they will still provide a glimpse of what you can expect when working in a similar setting. You will undoubtedly gain a better understanding of what nurses do at work, and you may even make valuable networking connections.
If you can’t find an actual job in a medical or clinical setting, you might still be able to gain experience in one by arranging to shadow a nurse on the job. Start by networking through friends and family to see if you can find a practicing nurse willing to bring you along on a weekly basis. If you can’t find someone through your friends or family, consider asking your own medical providers if they can put you in touch with someone.
Once you have shadowed one nurse for a few days, ask if he or she can put you in touch with another nurse on a different floor, at a different facility, or in a different specialty. This is a great way to get an idea of what different nurses do on a day-to-day basis so that you can have a more specific career goal in mind when looking at nursing programs.
Be sure to fully capitalize on the opportunity to shadow a nurse by asking lots of thoughtful questions. Some examples might include why they chose to pursue nursing and what advice they might have for someone in your shoes. This is a valuable opportunity to gain insight from a person who’s already walked the path you’re considering. Be sure to make the most of it.
Become Involved with HOSA-Future Health Professionals
HOSA-Future Health Professionals, formerly known as Health Occupations Students of America, is a “national career and technical student organization,” which is endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and the Health Science Technology Education Division. Its members include students along with professional, alumni, and honorary members working in the professional healthcare field. The organization’s goal is to promote career opportunities in the healthcare industry and to improve the overall quality of healthcare.
HOSA offers programs geared towards leadership development, motivation, and recognition for students pursuing careers in health professions. The organization also hosts competitive events, national leadership conferences, and state conferences. Its website provides a list of internships available in the industry. While most HOSA-sponsored events are only weekend-long, your local chapter can meet more often to discuss relevant current events and prepare for competitions.
If your school does not yet have a branch of HOSA-Future Health Professionals, you can read about creating your own affiliation here.
Science or Math Focused Activities
Nursing requires a strong grasp of science and math. You’ll sometimes need to do quick calculations for medication dosages on the fly, or recognize medical abnormalities in a patient and make an educated hypothesis about what could be causing them. To develop these skills, any extracurricular activity with a heavy math or science focus is a great idea.
You might get involved with the science fair and conduct research that leads you from a school fair all the way to a national or international science fair. You might participate in Science Olympiad or Math Olympiad. You may join the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad or the Biology or Chemistry Club. If your school doesn’t offer these activities, considering starting your own club.
Also consider research opportunities that might be available locally. Sometimes, research assistant roles are available at local laboratories or colleges. To learn more about finding them, check out CollegeVine’s How to Get a Research Assistant Position in High School.
If you’re considering a career as a nurse, you have probably already discovered your passions for science and service. As you consider the extracurriculars best suited for a future as a nurse, allow those passions to be your guide. By finding activities that bolster your strengths as a scientist, reinforce your mission to help others, and lend insight into medical careers, you will set yourself up not only for successful college admissions but also for a well-founded future in nursing.
To learn more about career possibilities in the nursing field or to discover other ways that you might prepare for this career path, consider the benefits of the CollegeVine Near Peer Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from college admissions to career aspirations, all from successful college students.
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