Is it Necessary to Shadow if I’m Already in Healthcare?

Session 34

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OPM 34

Your questions, answered here on the OldPreMeds Podcast. Ryan again dives into the forums over at where he pulls out a question and deliver the answers right on to you. In today’s episode, Ryan answers a question raised by an NP looking into going to medical school and asks about the need for shadowing experience.

OldPreMeds Question of the Week:

Poster is an NP looking to go back to medical school and become a fully fledged professional. Would want to return to primary care one day as a fully fledged professional on the MD/DO route. As an NP, has worked alongside MD’s and DO’s in primary care and doing things they do such as patient care. Do you still need to shadow? Is it desirable to still shadow other specialties?

Here are the insights from Ryan:

The goal of shadowing is to really understand what you’re getting yourself into.

Shadowing for you may not be required but there is a difference between working as an NP and a physician.

Go out and shadow other specialties to be a little bit more well-rounded and understand the fuller picture of what other physicians may do.

Shadowing in your case isn’t for letters of recommendation but for you to get a bigger picture. Don’t necessarily go crazy with your hours. Get maybe 10-40 hours and a couple hours here and there.

Links and Other Resources:



Dr. Ryan Gray: The Old Premeds Podcast, session number 34.
You’re a nontraditional student entering the medical field on your terms. You may have had some hiccups along the way, but now you’re ready to change course and go back and serve others as a physician. This podcast is here to help answer your questions and help educate you on your nontraditional journey to becoming a physician.
As always this podcast is here to help you, the nontraditional student, on your journey into medical school, and we take our questions directly from the forums. If you’re not registered over there, go to, sign up for a free account, and go ahead and ask away. It’s an awesome collaborative community of other nontraditional students looking to help you as you continue on your journey. And it’s not just students, there are a ton of nontraditional physicians in there answering questions as well.

Shadowing for an NP Returning to Medical School

In this podcast episode we have an awesome question from an NP that is looking to go back to medical school and become a ‘fully fledged professional.’ And this person wants to know whether or not shadowing should be something that he or she does. It says, ‘I would love to return to primary care one day as a fully-fledged professional, hence MD / DO route. However as per med school recs lists shadowing is required. As an NP I have worked alongside MDs and DOs in primary care, I have been doing many things that they do including screaming matches on the phone with insurance companies-‘ I’m not sure I’d recommend mentioning that in any personal statements or interviews. ‘Challenges of EHRs,’ again I’m not sure I would recommend that. ‘Forms, paperwork, leaving work at 9:30 PM versus 5:00 PM, et cetera. Of course patient care goes without saying.’ That’s what you want to focus on right there. ‘Alright based on above does anyone who is an NP on this forum and is in a similar situation advise if med schools would still want you to shadow in this case?’

So I’ll answer that question. As an NP- and I’ve worked with a lot of NPs and PAs turned MDs and DOs that want to go to medical school. Yes you for the most part are doing a very similar job, you’re working side by side with the MDs and DOs, you understand that a lot of the frustrations- obviously the goal of shadowing is to really understand what you’re getting yourself into. So I would think like you’re kind of thinking that shadowing isn’t really required. But there is a difference between working as an NP and working as a physician. And those differences might be small from the setting that you are in, but they may be much bigger in different settings. I would recommend- and let me actually- there was another kind of question next on here that says, ‘As a side thought if I’m dead set on internal or family medicine, is it desirable that I still shadow other specialties? IE ortho, GI, cardio, neuro, et cetera.

So I would just for the sake of you in your particular situation, you come from a primary care NP background, you’re interested in primary care; I would go out and shadow another specialty just to be a little bit more well-rounded, understanding more of that fuller picture of what other physicians may do.

Yes I would still shadow. Your shadowing hours might not need to be as in-depth as somebody else’s, a traditional student who doesn’t have the clinical experience that you have. I’m assuming that the other physicians that you’re working with, they know that you want to go to medical school, and so they’re going to be able to write you phenomenal letters of recommendations hopefully, and so shadowing really in your case isn’t going to be for letters of recommendations, it’s just going to be just a little bit of a bigger picture. I wouldn’t go crazy with your hours, I would get maybe ten, twenty, thirty, forty hours, not a ton, do a couple hours here and there and really just polish it off so that on your application you have some shadowing in there. But it’s going to be such a small part of who you are and your clinical experience just because you have all of that experience already.

So I hope that helped. It’s awesome- I love talking to NPs and PAs that are making that switch. It’s always interesting to see why they’re making that switch, and wanting to become a physician. So good luck on your journey and I wish you the best as you continue on.

Final Thoughts

If you have a question that you would like answered here on this podcast, as I mentioned earlier go to We take questions directly from that forum and answer them here on the podcast. And when I say ‘we,’ usually I have the old- the old, he is kind of old but don’t tell him that. Sorry Rich. We have the retired Director of the National Society for Nontraditional Premedical and Medical Students, Rich Levy, and myself who is the acting Director of the National Society for Nontraditional Premedical and Medical Students, also known as Old Premeds. So usually we are together answering questions, but the last couple weeks have been very crazy and so it’s just been me. Hopefully we’ll get Rich back on here soon.

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Alright I hope you have a great week, go check out our other shows over at We have The Premed Years podcast which is kind of all-encompassing nontraditional, traditional, kind of everything on your premed journey, and we also now have The MCAT Podcast, something I’ve been teasing for a while is finally released and that’s The MCAT Podcast. You can find that at Med Ed Media, or at
Alright have a great week, stay motivated, stay encouraged, and continue on your journey to becoming a physician so that one day you can help all of those patients that you’re hoping to help in the future. Have a great week, we’ll see you next week here at the Old Premeds Podcast.