Pre-Med Shadowing: What are Your Options?

While not all medical schools require applicants to participate in clinical shadowing, many do require at least a few hours, while even more require at least 40 hours of online or in-person shadowing. Even for those schools that don’t require it, having some shadowing experience on your application can only improve your standing as a med school candidate.

What are Your Options for Clinical Shadowing?

There are many different options available for premed students looking to complete their shadowing hours. Depending on your location, the time you have available, and your interests, you may have more or less options available to you.

Types of Shadowing

There are two main types of shadowing: virtual or online shadowing and in-person shadowing. Both of these experiences count towards your total hours and both come with pros and cons.

For instance, someone who lives in a remote part of the country may have difficulty finding many different shadowing experiences. This is where virtual shadowing can be a great option. On the other hand, in-person shadowing allows for more varied experiences and a better rapport with the doctor.

Who Can You Shadow?

You can shadow any doctor in any facility for any amount of time. This gives you flexibility to find shadowing experiences that fit into your schedule and are related to your interests.

For example, those who are interested in family medicine should contact nearby family doctors to inquire about family medicine shadowing. Family medicine shadowing will give you the opportunity to get a look at the day-to-day tasks of a family doctor and see if this type of career fits with your personality and strengths.

This doesn’t mean you should only shadow family physicians. Because you are just starting out in your medical career, it’s important to participate in many types of physician shadowing. You can shadow different physicians in the same field at the same practice, different physicians in different fields at different practices, or a combination of the above. The important thing to remember when it comes to physician shadowing is that this is a learning experience, so take advantage of the opportunity to learn about as many different specialties as possible.

How to Find Shadowing Opportunities

Finding a doctor to shadow requires a bit of legwork. You can check to see if your local doctors offices, clinic and hospitals have online forms for shadowing, or if there is a number you can call. You can also check with your school to see if they have any resources available. Once you get in contact with the right department, you will then be given possible days and times that you can come in for shadowing.

For those who are interested in virtual shadowing, a quick search online will give you some options for places that offer virtual and online shadowing experiences.

What to Expect from Shadowing

Once you have your first shadowing experience scheduled, it’s time to prepare for the day. Remember that shadowing is a passive activity. This is a time to absorb what’s going on around you. Take plenty of notes and jot down questions as they come up so you can remember them when there’s time to ask. Be professional, courteous and alert, and remember to thank the doctor for the experience.