In this episode, we talk all about shadowing, which is a pretty common topic for premed students to have questions about.
We’ll talk about where to shadow doctors, what shadowing is, how to find shadowing opportunities, and more!
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
What is Shadowing?
- Shadowing is when you observe a physician in the clinic, hospital, O.R., or wherever the physician works.
- You are the physician’s shadow. You’re like a fly on the wall, observing as the physician goes through a typical day.
- Sometimes the physician will let you do a patient exam, listen to the patient’s lungs, and so on.
- You can ask questions and learn from what you see the doctor doing.
- Shadowing gives you first-hand knowledge to see what life is really like as a physician.
- Shadowing allows you to build relationships with physicians who can write you letters of recommendation for medical school.
- Your shadowing experience can turn into something so much more than you ever imagined.
[Related episode: How Much Shadowing Experience Do I Need for Medical School?]
Reasons for Shadowing as a Premed
Shadowing will help you:
- Gain first-hand, tangible knowledge of what it’s like to practice as a physician
- Get a sense of what the perks are of being a physician as well as the rewards and challenges
- See how much paperwork is involved in the day-to-day life of a physician
- Build relationships and a strong network of people you know in health care
- Get a unique one-on-one opportunity to learn actively from a physician
- Help the health care team and the patients while you’re there
- See if you would enjoy the life of a physician
- Get exposed to different specialties and figure out what area of medicine you might be interested in
How to Find Shadowing Opportunities
- Talk to your family, friends, teachers who know physicians or are physicians themselves.
- Ask your own primary-care physician.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to a physician and make a phone call or send an email.
- Call a hospital (volunteering office) or private practice and say that you want to shadow somebody. Ask if they could set you up with anybody.
- All practicing physicians know what it’s like to need shadowing hours, so some will be willing to help, even if they are busy.
- Check out the new project we’re building: FindShadowing.com.
[Related episode: Does Shadowing a Family Member Look Bad?]
How to Ask a Doctor If You Can Shadow Them
- Be honest about why you want to shadow the physician.
- Communicate why you think they would be a great person for you to shadow.
- Mention any connections you share with the physician.
- Be upfront about goals and expectations. Clarify why you are interested in shadowing them.
- If you’re going to want a letter of recommendation from this physician, mention it upfront.
[Related episode: How Soon Can I Ask for a Letter of Recommendation?]
If you’re doing it for a letter of recommendation:
- Set aside enough time to build a relationship.
- If you shadow a doctor every week for several months, you can get a killer letter of recommendation.
- Try to find physicians who are willing to have you come back on a regular basis for shadowing.
Tips for Your First Day of Shadowing
- Be punctual. Be early. Show up on time for rounds or when the clinic opens.
- Introduce yourself to the physician, their staff, and other health care providers who work there.
- Get to know the physician a little bit and share about who you are.
- Begin by looking at the patient load for the day.
- Be discrete and be very polite so as not to make the patients feel uncomfortable.
- Ask questions in between patients.
[Related episode: How Should I Prepare for My First Shadowing Experience?]
What to Wear When Shadowing a Doctor
- No heels inside the OR.
- Dress appropriately.
- Ask beforehand where to find your scrubs, if needed.
- Always wear closed-toed shoes.
- Keep your nails free of polish or neutral colors (no bright colors).
- Don’t wear a white coat.
- Wear something business casual. No need for suits. A buttoned-down shirt and a tie will do.
How to Make the Most Out of Your Shadowing Experience
- Take notes. Bring a pen and notebook with you, and make sure to keep them with you.
- Turn this experience into something you can use for your application by being always open and taking on more responsibilities while you’re there.
- Continue to be excited about what you’re doing while you’re there.
- Continue to build your relationship with this doctor in the future by following up and sending emails.
- Take time to really acknowledge the physician for taking you on.
- Thank the physician and other people on the team or in the hospital.
- Look for active opportunities to go back and work with that physician again.
[Related post: How to Effectively Shadow a Doctor as a Premed Student.]
Takeaway Shadowing Advice for Premeds
Keep yourself open to all possibilities. Shadow widely. Get early experiences with as many specialties as you can, and see how different physicians practice in different areas.
Links and Other Resources
- Check out my Premed Playbook series of books (available on Amazon), with installments on the personal statement, the medical school interview, and the MCAT.
- Related episode: Is It Necessary to Shadow If I’m Already in Healthcare?
- Related post: Premed Clinical Experience: Shadowing vs Volunteering.
- Need MCAT Prep? Save on tutoring, classes, and full-length practice tests by using promo code “MSHQ” at Next Step Test Prep!
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