How Should I Prepare For My First Shadowing Experience?

Session 67

Session 67

This week’s question is all about shadowing, basically some do’s and don’ts to make sure you get the most out of your shadowing experience.

We take questions directly from the OldPreMeds.org forums. If you haven’t yet, go register for an account. It’s free and easy. Feel free to ask questions.

OldPreMeds Question of the Week:

From Lydia:

“I’m preparing for my first shadowing experience. I’ll be shadowing a heme/oncologist MD. Does anyone have any suggestions for how to make the most of my experience. I’m planning on bringing a notebook and some good questions. Any other ideas or suggestions or must-ask questions? Thanks!”

Here are my insights:

[01:34] Shadowing and Clinical Experience

Shadowing is so important in the game of premed life in order for you to understand what medicine is like. However, please note that shadowing and clinical experience are two different things.

Clinical experience involves hands-on interaction with patients where you help them do things and talk to them. Hence, you are really interacting with them.

Shadowing, on the other hand, is supposed to be a very passive experience where you’re literally a shadow because you’re there standing in a corner or behind the physician or beside the physician to just watch and observe. You’re not there to ask questions during the patient interaction. You’re not there to talk to the patients.

Some physicians, however, are okay with students who shadow to do exams on the patient, if the patient allows it obviously. Some physicians will ask your thoughts during an exam or during taking a patient’s history.  Basically, every physician is different.

So just go in with the assumption that you’re only going to stand there, watch, and be silent. Your opportunity to ask questions to the physician happens afters the patient encounter  but only if they allow you to. Some physicians won’t give you any time to ask questions while other physicians will let you ask questions in between every patients. But just go in with the assumption that you won’t be able to ask questions or interact in any way and that you’re just going to be following the physician around. Anything else that is above and beyond that assumption is great.

[03:57] What to Bring

Don’t go in with anything (notebook, pens, paper, etc.) unless it’s a tiny book that will fit in your pocket. You’re going in dressed up in business casual unless you’re told something else by the physician or the clinic where you’re shadowing. Go in with as little as possible so that you are not burdening the clinic with needing to store your stuff. Leave your backpack or purse in the car. Go in with nothing. The less you have, the better.

[05:05] Questions to Ask

Let the questions come to you naturally as you leave. Don’t go in with a list of questions with what medicine is like and what life is like. Just ask questions at the end of the day about what you saw that day or the process  you saw during that day. As you build that relationship, more and more of these questions can come. Ask questions about the patient at the end of the day. Do not ask a generic list of questions because that is not necessary.

[05:50] Taking Notes

As you’re done for the day, you may now get your notebook out and start journaling -physician’s name, dates and times, what you saw, what left an impression on you, what made an impact on you, diseases you’ve seen, the kind of patient interaction the physician had, what you liked or not liked about what you saw that day, what could have been done better or different. Write those things down and be sure to keep a journal of all your interactions of shadowing, volunteering  (even including the non-medical stuff). Keep a journal of all your experiences because this can help you with filling out your AMCAS application, AACOMAS application, or the Texas Medical and Dental Application Service in that you have these memories and notes to go back to.

Links:

OldPreMeds.org

The Premed Years Podcast

MedEd Media Network

AMCAS application

ACOMAS application

Texas Medical and Dental Application Serviced Media Network

Transcript

Introduction

Dr. Ryan Gray: The Old Premeds Podcast, session number 67.

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 am your host here at the Old Premeds Podcast as well as The Premed Years. If you don’t subscribe to either of these shows, I highly recommend you do. Go check us out and everything that we do at www.MedEdMedia.com. That’s www.MedEdMedia.com. We take questions directly from the www.OldPremeds.org forums. If you’re not a member over there, go register for an account, it’s free and it’s easy, and go ask your questions.

A Poster’s Question on Shadowing

This question is from Lydia who we will say is a ‘she’ for the sake of making it easier for me to refer to her. And she says, ‘Hey everyone, I’m preparing for my first shadowing experience. I’ll be shadowing a Hem/Oncologist MD. Does anyone have any suggestions for how to make the most of my experience? I’m planning on bringing a notebook and some good questions. Any other ideas or suggestions for must ask questions? Thanks.’

Alright, so shadowing. Shadowing is so important in the game of the premed life to understand what medicine is like. Now there are differences between shadowing and clinical experience. Clinical experience is hands-on, interacting with patients, helping them do things, or get them things, or talking to them, and really interacting with them. Shadowing is supposed to be a very passive experience. You are there to be a literal shadow. To stand in the corner, or stand behind the physician, or at the side of the physician, and watch, and observe. You’re not to ask questions during the interactions with the patients, you’re not to talk to the patient specifically. Now some physicians will be okay with you doing exams on the patients, obviously if the patient allows it, some physicians will ask you your thoughts during an exam, or during taking a patient’s history. Every physician is different, but go in with the assumption that you’re just going to stand there and watch and be silent.

After the patient encounter, then that is your opportunity to ask questions of the physician if they allow you to. Some physicians are so busy that they’re just going from room to room to room with all of the patients, and you’re just following along. And then at the end of the day they’ll say, “Thank you, goodbye,” and that’s it. You’re not going to have any time to ask questions. Some physicians will go room to room to room and then at the end of the day they’ll sit down with you and talk about what they saw, and what questions you have, and then that’s your opportunity to ask questions. Some will let you ask questions in between every patient. So go in with the assumption period that you are not going to be able to ask questions, or interact in any way, you are just going to follow the physician around, and that’s okay. Go in with that assumption, and anything else above and beyond is great.

So my suggestion would be for shadowing, don’t go in with anything. Don’t go in with a notebook, don’t go in with pens and paper, or anything unless it’s a small little book that will fit in your pocket, because you’re not going to carry anything with you from room to room to room with these patients. You’re going to go in wearing nice professional clothes, dress business casual unless you’re told something else by the physician or by the clinic that you are shadowing, where you are shadowing. Go in and you’re going to have your purse as a female, maybe a backpack as a male, or backpack as a female as well, go in with as little as possible so that you aren’t burdening the clinic with needing to store your stuff. And I would even say leave your backpack in the car, leave your purse in the car, go in with nothing and just go in and say, “I’m here, let’s go.” The less you have, the better. And then as you leave, let the questions come to you naturally, don’t go in with a list of questions about what medicine is like, and what life is like, just ask questions about the day, and the process that you saw in that day. And as you build a relationship, then more and more of these questions can come.

So after patients, if the physician allows you to ask questions, ask questions about the patient. At the end of the day, ask questions about things that you saw that day. Don’t go in with a list of questions to ask- a generic list of questions to ask. It’s not necessary, it’s not needed. So that’s that aspect of it.

And then as you are done for the day, when you get to the car, when you get home, then that’s where you get your notebook out and you start journaling. What did you see? What left an impression on you? What made an impact on you? What diseases did you see? What sort of interactions with the patient did the physician have that you liked? What didn’t you like about what you saw that day? What could have been done better? What could have been done different? Write those things down as well as obviously the name of the physician, and the dates and times that you were there, and keep a journal like this of all of your interactions whether it’s shadowing, or volunteering, even normal outside volunteering like Habitat for Humanity, non-medical stuff, keep a journal after your experiences so that when it comes to filling out your AMCAS application, or AACOMAS application, or the Texas Medical Dental Application Service, you have these memories and notes to go back to, to think about everything that you’ve experienced.

Final Thoughts

So those are my thoughts about what you should bring, or not bring to your shadowing experience, and what questions you should or should not ask to prepare for your shadowing day. I hope that was helpful. If you have a question, again go to www.OldPremeds.org, sign up for an account, and again it’s free, and ask away. Great community over there at www.OldPremeds.org.

I hope you have a great day, and keep pushing forward on your nontraditional journey. I would love for you to share this podcast with somebody by the way. I don’t charge you for these podcasts, I charge you- I am asking for a fee today of going and telling one person about this podcast. Go let them know. Go steal their phone, sign up for them, subscribe to this podcast. Alright have a great week, we’ll see you next week here at the Old Premeds Podcast, and Med Ed Media.

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