Importance of Shadowing a Physician

Physician shadowing is extremely important for your application to medical school. Your shadowing hours demonstrate your commitment to a medical career. You also have an excellent opportunity to learn about what it is like to work in the challenging field of healthcare. Shadowing enables you to observe the specific responsibilities of a physician. Imagine having the opportunity to watch a physician handle complicated cases, determine the most effective treatment plan, and record notes for patients.  

Shadowing a doctor is so important, the experience is considered integral for your premedical education. Even though shadowing a physician is not mandatory for admittance to medical school, your experience can improve your chance of acceptance. Shadowing a doctor is an effective tool demonstrating you are an ideal fit for a medical career. You are demonstrating your willingness to dedicate your time and energy to becoming an exceptional physician.  

Shadowing a doctor provides you with an in-depth knowledge of the medical field. You are showing you are committed to becoming a physician, willing to commit the hours required, able to handle the responsibilities, and have the perseverance to succeed. Shadowing a physician will ensure you are not making a mistake because you understand everything expected of a premed student. You need to avoid the mistakes numerous students have made while physician shadowing. You also need to know how to obtain shadowing hours. 

How to Shadow a Doctor

You have several different options for obtaining shadowing hours. If you have a good relationship with a physician, ask if you can shadow them. If you are unable to obtain physician shadowing hours, ask your academic advisor, professors, or teachers which physicians students have previously shadowed. If you are attending college, contact the hospital or medical school on campus. Contact the volunteer office for hospitals to determine if shadowing is available.  

Conduct an online search for local physicians with specialties of interest. Contact the physician through email, or call the office to request shadowing hours. Make certain you provide as much advance notice as possible. Explain the reasons you are interested in shadowing a specific physician such as you are interested in their specialty, or the physician was recommended. Briefly explain your goals, medical experience, and where you are planning to attend school.  

Always be professional and polite. Numerous physicians are interested in speaking with students. If you are not offered shadowing hours, contact other physicians. If one of your parents is a physician, you are a step ahead. If not, you must establish the necessary connections. An excellent option is creating a list of specialties of interest. You should have a basic idea of which areas of medicine interest you the most to determine how to shadow a doctor.  

If you are uncertain which specialties are the most intriguing, begin with the basics. Contact physicians specializing in family or internal medicine. Physician shadowing provides an opportunity to learn more about numerous medical specialties. Shadowing several physicians with different specialties often impresses medical schools. You are demonstrating you have learned about multiple areas of the medical profession. You may even discover which specialties interest you the most.  

One of your best options for shadowing a doctor is contacting your family physician. Most individuals have been seeing the same physician for many years. You most likely already have a relationship with your physician. This is a good opportunity to ask for shadowing hours from someone you know. Your physician will probably be thrilled you are entering the medical field. Your doctor will also know other physicians. You may be able to make important connections with other physicians this way. 

Most physicians are willing to help premed students by sharing their specialty, experience and ideas. At heart, a physician is already a teacher. If your physician does not have enough time for shadowing, ask for a recommendation. You will never receive physician shadowing hours if you do not ask. Referrals are excellent, but you still need to do the work. Make an effort by visiting the physician’s office, sending an email or calling.  

Represent yourself as a professional, and explain the reasons you are interested in a particular field. Politeness and sincerity are critical to your success. Write a formal letter requesting shadowing hours, attach a copy of your resume to enable the physician to see everything you have accomplished. If you do not receive a response from an email or a letter, visit the office in person. Once you start shadowing a doctor, enjoy your experience. 

You can learn a lot about preparing for medical school through shadowing and Pre-Medical Internships.You are on the path to becoming an important member of the medical field. Shadowing a doctor is your chance to learn by watching how physicians handle their practices and patients. 

The Most Important Steps for Successfully Shadowing a Doctor

You can maximize your shadowing experience. The tips below are important when you start shadowing a physician. 

Planning Early

Planning early will help you obtain physician shadowing hours to maximize your experience. Decide which specialty you intend to pursue in medical school. Shadowing a doctor is your opportunity to gain experience. Determine where you want to obtain your shadowing hours such as a hospital, medical center or clinic. Consider volunteering at a health fair or hospital to gain experience working with physicians and patients. 

Finding the Best Opportunities

One of the most intimidating tasks you will encounter is how to shadow a doctor. Do not be afraid to ask for help from your professors, family, friends, and family physician. Ask for referrals, volunteer at medical institutions, and ask for recommendations. You need to find the balance between aggressive, professional and courteous. If you are unable to obtain physician shadowing hours in your chosen specialty, accept the hours you are offered. Always remember shadowing a doctor is about obtaining experience, and knowledge in the medical field.  

Asking Appropriate Questions is Imperative

Physicians are often extremely busy during rounds due to the high volume of patients. The same is often true for the physician’s seeing patients in an office. Do not interrupt a busy physician with questions. You will frustrate the physician and medical team, while compromising patient care. The best time to ask questions may not be when you are shadowing a doctor. 

Physician shadowing is about gaining knowledge regarding the field of medicine. The question of how to shadow a doctor involves both your respect and enthusiasm. Wait until the physician is not busy, or with a patient before you start asking questions. Make certain your questions are short, relevant, and to the point. 

How to Shadow a Doctor by Selecting the Right Field

As a premed student, you have the opportunity to shadow a doctor in any field. Despite this, numerous medical universities are interested in students with physician shadowing in surgery or primary care. Both of these fields demonstrate your ability to make an educated decision regarding your career.

The Power of Reading

You can help determine the medical field of the most interest by reading. Take the time to learn about the different specialties while gaining knowledge. If you are interested in pediatrics, read all of the books you can about this field. Once you start physician shadowing, you will be able to ask more insightful questions. Not only will you be demonstrating your enthusiasm and knowledge, but you will be displaying your commitment as well.  

Professionalism is Critical

During your physician shadowing, act professionally, and wear professional attire. Avoid any outfits appearing too revealing or casual. Pay attention when shadowing a doctor, and ask questions at the appropriate times. Carry a notebook to write down any questions, and take notes. Your journal is an important reference for all of the knowledge you have gained. Write down everything you feel is important, the actions of the physician, how patients are treated, and anything that feels relevant. 

Discovering New Medical Specialties

While shadowing a doctor, ask about other specialties the physician is familiar with at the appropriate times. When the physician has a moment free, ask why they chose their specialty, if any other fields were considered, and the reasons the doctor made specific choices. The physician may begin talking about other specialties they considered. Some physicians knew which specialty they wanted from the beginning. Others may have considered numerous specialties during their time in school. 

When you ask these types of questions, you are essentially networking. Physicians have colleagues in numerous medical fields. You may obtain shadowing hours in a different specialty of interest while shadowing a doctor. Your relationship with the physicians you are shadowing is important. Even if you do not receive more physician shadowing hours, you will learn about other areas of medicine. You may learn about a new specialty you are not familiar with.  

Spending the Time Necessary for Placement in Medical School

You have a wide range of choices for medical school. The majority recommend shadowing a doctor for 25 to 40 hours every week. The idea is to make certain you understand exactly what is required for a career as a physician. Shadowing a doctor provides you with insight into the specific demands required of physicians. There is no minimum number of hours required for physician shadowing. 

Despite this, the more hours you have, the more you can fortify your personal statement. The more hours you spend shadowing a doctor, the greater your comprehension of the unique attributes, and skills of successful physicians. The key to having a career as a physician is developing and using your skills.  

Recommendations are Key

Once you have completed your physician shadowing, ask the physician for a letter of reference. Your recommendation letters serve as proof you have the ability to become a physician. Your letters are also important for your personal statement, and when your interviews with medical schools begin.

How to Shadow a Doctor Without Making Mistakes

Physician shadowing is an important aspect of your medical career. There are mistakes you need to avoid while physician shadowing outlined below. 

Becoming Discouraged When a Patient Asks You to Leave the Room

There will be some patients that do not want you in the room. Do not let this impact your desire to learn, or the excitement of your first day of shadowing a doctor. You will most likely experience this situation during your physician shadowing. In most instances, the PA or nurse will speak to the patient before the physician arrives. The patient will be asked for permission to have a student present. 

If the patient does not want you there, remain professional. Respecting the decisions of patients is an important part of being a good doctor. The majority of patients will want to be involved with your experience. If the patient will not accept your presence in the room, exit respectfully, and continue with your day.  

Disrespecting Healthcare Staff or Providers is Not Acceptable

Your presentation combined with the way you treat medical professionals is very important for physician shadowing. Whether or not the doctor is present, never disrespect anyone including the receptionist or members of the medical team. Your actions must include respecting every professional in the workplace. Your interactions with the team are just as critical as the way you interact with the physician. Respect others the way you want to be respected.  

Do Not Shadow a Doctor Just to Receive a Letter of Recommendation

When your physician shadowing results in a letter of recommendation, it is wonderful. This type of letter is important for your applications to medical school. Do not make the mistake of shadowing a doctor just to receive a letter of recommendation. If the doctor had enough time to learn about you, and your experience was interesting and successful, requesting a letter of recommendation from the physician is appropriate. 

The physician may even offer to provide a letter of recommendation for you. If the doctor does not offer, consider your experience before you ask for a letter. Letters of recommendation are about how you functioned during your physician shadowing, professionalism and character. If the physician does not know you well enough to write a compelling letter, your request might be denied. If you push the physician, the letter you may receive will most likely not be suitable for your application.  

Think about any relationship you developed with the physician before asking for a letter. Physicians also have extremely busy schedules. Asking for a letter of recommendation at the last minute is a recipe for disaster. Give the doctor as much time as possible to write a good recommendation letter to improve your chance of being accepted into medical school. Planning ahead is another good way to demonstrate your professionalism. 

Breaking Any Rules Including the HIPPA Oath

If you have not started your first physician shadowing experience, you may not yet be familiar with HIPPA. HIPPA is an abbreviation for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This act was created for the protection of patient health information in addition to providing patients with rights to certain portions of their health records. Understanding all of the regulations is critical for every physician. You may be required to take HIPPA training prior to shadowing a doctor.  

Before beginning physician shadowing, take the time to research HIPPA online. You can find excellent information by visiting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Maximizing Your Physician Shadowing Experience

Prior to shadowing a doctor, do some research online, read books, or listen to medical podcasts. You do not need to have any medical experience to begin shadowing a doctor, but it is helpful. You can demonstrate interest by having knowledge of medical procedures or diseases ahead of time. You should shadow the same physician for a long period of time. The recommendation is a minimum of a couple of weeks. If possible shadow a doctor for an entire summer.  

The more time you spend with the physician, the better your opportunity to understand the medical profession. Write down everything you see and learn in a journal on a daily basis. Your journal is an excellent source of information you will appreciate for your future. Ask the physician questions about the pros and cons of the medical field, the lifestyle of a doctor, and what it feels like to have a career as a physician.  

Be straightforward, hard-working, and professional at all times. If the physician asks you to perform a task, take advantage of the opportunity to learn. Once your physician shadowing experience has concluded, you will have gained important insight and experience to help you in medical school. 


Putting Everything Together

The time you spend shadowing a physician is critical for your medical school admittance, and experience. Once you have learned everything you can about shadowing a physician, consider applying to our Pre- Medical Internship Programs. Your medical career is your future. We encourage you to apply for your internship as soon as possible.