Considering an in-person clinical experience? Before you submit your application, you’ll need to decide which experience to apply for—a hands-on experience or an observership. Depending on your education status and experience, you may be eligible for one over the other.

When it comes to clinical experiences, in-person experiences can be categorized as hands-on experiences or observerships. Hands-on experiences allow participants to be part of a functioning healthcare system. Although they require less active participation, observerships can provide valuable insight to help one determine if a certain specialty or a medical career in the U.S. is right for them.

Below we elaborate on each experience type and outline eligibility requirements.


Hands-On Experiences

Visitors participating in hands-on clinical experiences can be part of the patient care process, with preceptor supervision. This type of interaction can only take place in outpatient settings like clinics and private practices. Inpatient settings, including hospitals, do not allow direct patient interaction.

AMO visitors participating in hands-on rotations will have the opportunity to perform several duties, including taking patient histories and vitals or presenting cases and differential diagnoses according to patient privacy guidelines. Hands-on clinical experiences provide tangible, interactive access to clinical practice in the United States. This type of clinical experience is a great tool for those preparing to take the USMLE Step 2 Clinical Skills.

Upon completion of the experience, visitors will have the opportunity to earn a letter of completion and, depending on their performance during the program, a letter of recommendation from their preceptor.

Hands-On Eligibility

Hands-on activities take place in the outpatient/clinic setting. Inpatient/hospital exposure is typically observation only. To be eligible for a hands-on rotation, you must be enrolled in medical school or a graduate who has a passing USMLE Step 1 score. If you do not meet the requirements for a hands-on rotation but still want to secure a clinical experience, you are still able to participate in observership rotations.


Observerships are a great option for early year medical students, graduates who have not taken the USMLE Step 1, and those preparing for the USMLE Step 2 CK. Compared to hands-on rotations, which include patient interaction, observerships are strictly shadowing. Trainees in an observership program do not interact with patients. Rather, visitors can observe and ask questions as they follow their precepting physician during their daily medical practice.

Often, physicians and students will engage in Q&As after seeing patients. Observerships are a convenient, non-invasive glance into the everyday lives of American doctors and medical practices.

Like hands-on experience, observerships offer visitors the opportunity to earn a letter of completion and, depending on their performance during the program, an LoR. When it comes to applying for U.S. medical residency, LoRs from both observerships and hands-on experiences can be used.

Observership Eligibility

To be eligible for an observership, an applicant must be a current medical student or graduate with an MBBS or MD degree. Although these experiences are designed for early-year medical students or graduates who haven’t passed the USMLE Step 1, almost everyone is eligible to apply for this experience type.

Exploring Experiences with AMOpportunities

AMOpportunities offers many hands-on, observership, pre-med shadowing, and virtual clinical experiences. To explore these options and you’ll need to create a free AMO account. Once you’ve done that, take the following steps below to find your perfect hands-on experience!

  1. Log in to your AMO Account
  2. In the top menu, click ‘Search.’
  3. To the right of ‘Select Filters,’ click ‘Rotation Type.’
  4. Select either ‘Hands-On’ or ‘Observership.’
  5. Explore the possibilities!

Want to participate in a hands-on clinical experience or an observership?

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