How Much Shadowing Do I Need for Medical School?

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Session 105

The shadowing vs clinical experience debate rages on in this post. This nontraditional student wants to know how many hours of shadowing she needs for her medical school applications.

If you’re new to OldPreMeds Podcast, we answer questions taken from the Nontraditional Premed Forum here at Medical School Headquarters. So if you’re a nontrad with a specific question of your own, go check out the forum, and your question may be featured on a future episode!

[03:28] OldPreMeds Question of the Week:

“How many shadowing hours I should have if I already have a lot of clinical hours? I have 124 hours of volunteering at a hospital, maternity and emergency, as well as more than 1500 hours working in a memory care facility. I’m moving and hoping to get a job as a scribe for the Spring, but that’s not determined yet.”

[03:55] Clinical Experience vs. Shadowing Hours

The first question is, is all of what you listed actually clinical experience? Understand that not all volunteering at a hospital counts as clinical experience. But let’s assume this poster does have all that clinical experience.

Let’s dig into the difference between shadowing and clinical experience, and the different purposes they serve for a premed.

Shadowing is a very passive experience. You are standing behind the physician. Maybe you’re in the corner of the room, not directly involved with the patient. And you’re observing. In some instances, the physician may ask you questions or allow you to do the exam if the patient allows you to. But it’s generally passive.

The definition of shadowing is that you observe. You are the physician's shadow.Click To Tweet

On the other hand, clinical experience entails directly interacting with the patient. You are doing things for the patient and with the patient. You are there for the patient.

[Related episode: How to Prepare For Your First Shadowing Experience]

Bottom Line: You Need Both.

They are two very different experiences. Clinical experience is very important, and a lot of students skip on it because they think they just need shadowing. Clinical experience is typically more important than shadowing. But a lot of students think that since they have a lot of clinical experience, they no longer need shadowing.

Clinical experience is very important, and a lot of students skip on it because they think they just need shadowing.Click To Tweet

There is a huge difference between interacting with patients yourself versus watching what the physician is doing. Both are important experiences for a premed student.

[Related post: Premed Clinical Experience: Shadowing vs Volunteering]

You need to shadow, to follow around these physicians to see what they're doing outside of the exam rooms to get a full picture of the life of a physician.Click To Tweet

[06:35] How Many Hours of Shadowing Do I Need?

So you need to shadow, and you need clinical experience. How much? There’s no number set in stone.

Ryan recommends shooting for around 40 or 50 hours of shadowing, and then more clinical experience. That’s just a rough estimate, though. Some schools actually state a requirement on their website. Of those, some say 100 hours, while others are around 12-24 hours. So it varies.

Since nothing is set in stone, just get as much as you can. You don’t need to go crazy and do thousands of hours as you see on some forums. But just get some hours.

Some medical schools have a requirement for shadowing hours. Of those, some say 100 hours, while others say 12-24 hours. So it varies.Click To Tweet

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