In today’s episode, Ryan welcomes a question from a student named Matt regarding getting shadowing and clinical experience – how much is enough, what better way to approach a physician, and can you shadow the same physician on a regular basis?
Your questions, answered here on the OldPreMeds Podcast as Ryan and Rich pulls a question from the forums over at OldPreMeds.org and delivers the answers right on to you.
OldPreMeds Question of the Week:
Matt is a 41-year old student how is extremely excited and nervous about this endeavor; no clinical or shadowing experience; hoping to apply next June and intends to spend the next 8 months shadowing and gaining clinical experience. Will this be sufficient? Or should the application be put off for another year?
Matt applied to join the local volunteer rescue squad where he is to commit 35 hours a month; what else can he do to gain clinical exposure?
Matt intends to shadow a few physicians across a range of specialties and attempts to spend a bit of time with the ones that feel like the most positive experience. Is there a better approach? Is it appropriate to ask a physician to shadow on a regular basis or is there a point where you are just interrupting his or her job?
Here are the insights from Ryan:
When you’re applying 8 months away from the next application cycle and you don’t have any clinical or shadowing experience, yes it is bad. How do you know you want to be a physician without any clinical or shadowing experience? This would be the first red flag to an admissions committee person.
Can you get enough clinical and shadowing experience in the next 8 months?
Yes, as long as it’s quality experience where you hang around enough patients in a clinical setting to know you’re okay dealing with sick people.
How can you get more clinical experience?
Consider being a scribe or any experience where you are close enough to smell the patient.
Shadowing is important to understand what life is like as a physician. You don’t need to shadow every specialty out there to see which one you like because that’s what medical school is for where you get to rotate different specialties. Your job when shadowing is to only understand what life is like as a physician.
Things to consider when shadowing:
Physicians working in an academic setting are different than those in an outpatient or community hospital. Try shadowing somebody in an academic hospital setting and somebody in a community hospital setting, as well as in an academic outpatient setting and in a community outpatient setting.
- Shadowing on a regular basis
Yes, you can ask a physician on a regular basis. This is actually great as you’re gaining a relationship that you can lean on later for a good letter of recommendation, hopefully. You may interrupt the workflow to some extent but not terribly. If you get a physician that says no, then that’s fine and move on to another who says yes.
Links and Other Resources:
Dr. Ryan Gray: The Old Premeds Podcast, session number 36.
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 now 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.
Welcome to the Old Premeds Podcast, my name is Dr. Ryan Gray and I’m the host here at the Old Premeds Podcast. You can find everything that we do over at www.OldPremeds.org, and that’s where you can find the forums where we take the questions directly from to answer here on the podcast.
Lacking Clinical and Shadowing Experience
This week’s post comes from a student named Matt, and he’s talking about his journey as a 41 year old student who is extremely excited and nervous about this endeavor. He has a couple questions here. He says, ‘I have no clinical or shadowing experience. I am hoping to apply next June. My intention is to spend the next eight months shadowing and gaining clinical experience. Will that be sufficient or should I put off the application for another year? I have applied to join the local volunteer rescue squad and am meeting next week to go over the particulars. The commitment will be for 35 hours a month. What else can I do to gain clinical exposure? I intend to shadow a few physicians across a range of specialties and then attempt to spend a bit of time with the ones that feel like the most positive experience. Is this approach okay or is there a better approach? Also is it appropriate to ask a physician to shadow on a regular basis, or is there a point where you are just interrupting his or her job?’
So those are the questions from Matt, and let’s go through one by one.
So this student Matt is applying next application cycle about eight months away; we’ll say roughly, it’s a little bit more than that. And he has no clinical or shadowing experience, so is that bad? And the answer is yes, it is. How do you know you want to be a physician without any clinical or shadowing experience? That would be my first red flag as an admissions committee person, as somebody looking at this application going, ‘Hmm, there’s no clinical or shadowing experience for the student. Why is that? What are your intentions?’ Can he- can Matt get enough clinical and shadowing experience in the next eight months? Sure, there’s no doubt. But there’s always going to be some lingering question in the back of my head that would question somebody going through the whole premed route, doing all their prerequisites, and taking the MCAT I’m assuming somewhere in here as well without really knowing what they’re getting into. So it’s just a little red flag that pops up, just something doesn’t sit right with me. But is eight months experience enough time? And I would say yes, as long as it’s quality experience. If you hang around enough physicians to understand what life is like as a physician, if you hang around enough patients in a clinical setting to know that you’re okay dealing with sick people, dealing with people when they’re at their most vulnerable, then I think you can do that.
The other question here, the commitment for volunteering in a rescue squad is 35 hours a month, but what else can I do to gain clinical exposure? So we’ve talked a lot about- in The Premed Years Podcast which you can find at- the best place would be just go check out Med Ed Media, the Old Premeds Podcast is part of Med Ed Media, it’s www.MedEdMedia.com. But on The Premed Years Podcast we talk a lot about clinical experience and how being a scribe is an excellent job for clinical experience. And so that’s something that Matt can think about. But any experience where you are close enough to smell the patient. I think that was a Georgetown admissions committee member- it was either George Washington or Georgetown, talking about clinical exposure and what really counts as clinical exposure, and his answer was close enough to smell the patient. So I always liked that one and use that one.
This last question here about shadowing. So shadowing is important to understand what life is like as a physician. You don’t need to shadow every specialty out there to see which specialty you like because that’s what medical school is for. You’ll have an experience rotating in different specialties and you’ll be able to dig a little bit deeper. Your job is really to understand what life is like as a physician, so there are a couple different things to think about. One is the setting. So physicians that work in an academic setting, an academic hospital are very different than physicians that work in an outpatient or community hospital. And so those are some things that maybe you want to look at. Maybe shadow somebody in an academic hospital setting, shadow somebody in a community hospital setting, shadow somebody in an academic outpatient setting, shadow somebody in a community outpatient setting. But don’t go crazy looking at all the different specialties, that’s really not the job here.
Can you ask a physician to shadow on a regular basis? Yes, and I highly recommend you do that because you’re gaining a relationship that you can lean on later hopefully for a good letter of recommendation. So yes shadows do interrupt the work flow to some extent, but not terribly, and if you’re going to get a physician that says no, then that’s fine and you move on and find another physician that will say yes.
So those are some answers to Matt’s questions. As I said earlier if you have any questions here on the Old Premeds forum, or here in your head that you want answered on The Old Premeds forum or on this podcast, go over to www.OldPremeds.org, sign up for an account and ask away. It’s an awesome community, unlike that other three letter word community that shall remain nameless. The Old Premeds forum is full of awesome people just looking to help.
I want to take a minute to thank a couple people that have left us reviews in iTunes. If you haven’t done so, I highly recommend you do so. I am greatly indebted to every person that leaves a review and that’s why I just say thank you here and read them real quick.
So we have one from MIO New York 41 that says, ‘So happy to have found your podcast. Thank you so much for giving me hope, letting me know I’m not insane, and showing me that I’m not alone in starting my journey at 41. Please keep up the wonderful work.’ I wonder if that’s Matt. I bet you it is, he’s 41.
Anyway we also have X Solorzano that says, ‘Very insightful. The biggest question this podcast raises for potential nontrad premeds is do you want it? If you’re listening or thinking about listening to this podcast, it’s at least a blip on your radar. If you still have doubts then please listen to episode 29. The farewell letter is an amazing insight to what it’s like to cut your losses and move on, not because of inability but because it’s just not worth it to you. These guys do not sugar-coat anything and try their hardest to help. The question they ask are questions every nontrad premed has or should have. They have made me realize that it is possible to accomplish my childhood dream of becoming a physician.’ That’s awesome, so X Solorzano, I actually really loved- Solorzano, I actually loved that episode where I read that farewell letter. Again that’s episode 29 at www.OPMPodcast.com/29. It was very insightful into the thought process behind when to cut your ties and move on. So thank you for taking the time to leave that review.
We have one more here from Jmh002002 that says, ‘This podcast has forever changed my life. This podcast and the www.OldPremeds.org changed my life. I was told in a meeting with my premed advisor that my age was too big of an obstacle to overcome. This was pretty much confirmed by many of the websites I visited. Unable to give up on this dream I stumbled on this podcast and the website. Now four years after that meeting, at the age of 41, I am going all in. You have shown me that there is a path and that I just have to find it. I’m forever grateful. Thank you, Matt.’
Oh, he is Matt, so the other guy wasn’t Matt. That’s awesome. Matt, you had your question answered and your review read all in one podcast.
If you enjoyed this podcast go check out www.MedEdMedia.com where we have The Premed Years Podcast, we have The MCAT Podcast, and we have a couple more podcasts in the works that are still secretive, but not really secretive because the artwork is on www.MedEdMedia.com so you can see the coming soon podcast artwork there.
So if you’re just curious about what’s coming, go check it out, www.MedEdMedia.com. As always I hope you got a ton of great information out of the show today, and I hope you join us next week here at the Medical School Headquarters and the Old Premeds Podcast.