How To Shadow a Doctor as A Premed Student

August 17

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If you plan to attend medical school, you must observe a physician before submitting your application. In addition to being a mandatory extracurricular activity for medical school, shadowing also ensures that you go into the field with an open mind. 

You will learn about the actual working hours and daily chores that go into being a doctor, as well as the many additional difficulties and rewards that come with the job.

This article is for you if you want to maximize your shadowing experience as a pre-med student.

What is Shadowing?

Shadowing involves spending the entire workday with a doctor and observing their activities. Before enrolling in medical school, pre-med students frequently shadow better to understand the realities of a doctor's life. 

Shadowing can help students choose a specialization by showing them what different sorts of doctors have on their plates and how their timetables work.

It will enable you to appreciate what a regular day for a doctor entails and provide you with relevant experience for use in medical school applications and interviews. 

It is an excellent approach to learning about diverse medical disciplines and environments.

When Should I Start Shadowing as a Pre-Med Student?

Start your medical shadowing as soon as you can. Start shadowing as quickly as possible after submitting your primary application for medical school. It takes time to look up suitable doctors, contact them, and await a response. Consider looking for shadowing opportunities during your sophomore year to give yourself adequate time. 

You should consider if the doctor works at a big hospital or medical center while looking into shadowing opportunities.

However, more extensive medical facilities may require additional paperwork from doctors to fulfill your request. Therefore, looking for possibilities early will help you be more ready for any obstacles. 

Consult a medical school admissions specialist who can assist you if you have trouble locating openings.

How Many Hours of Shadowing Do I Need as a Pre-Med Student?

If you want to put an exact number on it, a decent optimum range is between 100 and 120 hours. 

You can easily reach your goal if you can follow several doctors for ten days spread over time (or even over a year or so if you start early).

Shadowing one doctor for a day will take you about 10 hours. As said above, if possible, make sure you are following various disciplines. There are restrictions here as well. 

For example, suppose a particular area of medicine piques your interest. In that case, spending many days shadowing one or more doctors in that field is okay.

You also do not have to shadow a different doctor or specialty every time. However, try to learn more about a few alternative fields that you believe you could be interested in. It will be easier for you to understand the various workdays if you observe a good variety of doctors from multiple disciplines because duties vary. 

For instance, a day in emergency medicine differs from a day in family medicine. But first, get a complete picture of your career choices. This is because there is no alternative to the manner of direct observation that good shadowing experiences offer. 

Please list the medical specialties that interest you most, and then try to secure shadowing opportunities in at least three.

How to Shadow a Doctor as a Pre-Med Student

Medical shadowing is one of the most valuable clinical experiences to acquire before applying to medical school. 

Admissions committees appreciate the passion for the medicine you show by shadowing. Your involvement also supports your conclusion that you should pursue a medical career. 

While many students have heard of medical shadowing, many need to know its significance and how to undertake it. For your reference, listed below are the tips on how to shadow a doctor as a pre-med student:

Keep a Journal and Record Your Hours

Although following a doctor is primarily passive, there are advantages, including the chance to observe and ask questions. 

We advise carrying a small notebook so you may jot down any information you want to remember or discuss with the doctor at the end of the day or between appointments. 

Noting down observations also serves as a good source of information for application essays. Therefore, include your shadowing experience in your personal statement or secondary essays. However, do not include or modify information about the patients, such as their names, dates of birth, or addresses.

Know the Right Time to Ask Questions 

When observing a doctor, there are appropriate and inappropriate times to ask questions. For example, never ask inquiries when the doctor is with a patient or in front of them. This gives off an unprofessional and rude vibe. 

Ask inquiries between patients or when the doctor asks if you have any questions. Pay attention to the time and location. Know when to ask queries; there's no rush to answer them.

Recognize Your Role When Shadowing a Doctor

By shadowing a doctor, you can learn about their daily routine and decide whether that field of medicine fits you. 

The answer to what to do while shadowing a doctor is straightforward: you should only observe. It would help if you did not weigh in with your patient's prognosis or help the doctor unless asked. You are there to observe and gain knowledge.

Treat Patients With Respect and Courtesy

You will interact with and meet many patients as a doctor's assistant. Students may inquire about their experience or education or be given a few minutes alone with a patient. 

The doctor might ask you to leave the room since certain patients might not want a student present. Do not let this bother you. Be cordial, considerate, and aware of the doctor-patient connection.

Have More Than One Doctor to Shadow

How much shadowing experience should you get before continuing? No solution works for everyone. It will differ from one adventure to the next and from one pre-med to the next. However, more than one is better.

We advise you to shadow many different doctors in many specialties and settings. Working in an academic hospital is significantly dissimilar from working in a community outpatient clinic. You will be more ready to enter the field if you can gather various experiences.

Finish Strong

Many pre-med students want letters of recommendation from doctors they have shadowed. So consider this solution in advance because it might be fantastic. 

You may want to discuss it on your final day of shadowing. Review a strategy for moving forward because they might want to view a copy of your resumé or ask you some questions.

Do not feel pressured to obtain numerous letters of recommendation, even if it is nice to have one from a doctor you have shadowed. One is probably sufficient.

Additional Tips to Maximize Your Shadowing Experience

Finding out the medical specialties and environments you are most interested in while working under close supervision is an excellent approach to determining your future specializations.

Hence, you want to select the best opportunity for you and your future path by maximizing your shadowing experience.

  • Make sure you arrive on time. Always dress professionally if you are observing at a clinic. Ask the surgeon where you can get scrubs (typically available in the hospital.)
  • Plan to dress in closed-toed, comfortable shoes. Bring a small notepad and some writing utensils so you can take notes. Do not, however, write down any private patient information.
  • Respect should be shown to everyone you contact during your shadowing experience, including patients, their families, office workers, and other allied health specialists.
  • While working with a doctor, showing your passion and attention is critical. Therefore, any queries you may have should be written down and brought up politely when the moment is opportune.
  • Thank the doctor and the staff for having you in before you leave. Before you go, try to arrange another shadowing opportunity with the doctor. Ask your host doctor for colleagues' contacts if you still want more shadowing possibilities.

Additional FAQs – How to Shadow a Doctor as a Pre-Med Student?

Do Medical Schools Care About Shadowing?

Although it may not be strictly necessary, shadowing will increase your chances of getting taken seriously at various medical schools. Remember that many colleges will simply not consider your application without proof of shadowing. Submitting applications to as many medical schools as possible make sense.

Can You Shadow a D.O. for M.D. School?

Shadowing a D.O. family practitioner if you apply to M.D. programs is okay. Just ask the family practice physician to submit a letter of recommendation. Even though D.O. is in his title, medical schools do not particularly care about it or view it as less valuable than shadowing an M.D.

How Long Should You Shadow a Physician?

Find a time that works for both you and the doctor's schedule. For example, you can follow them for a few hours a week for a few weeks or months, or you can only want to spend a single day with them.

You could shadow full-time for an entire week if you have the time during the summer or a break. Find out what the doctor prefers or what has previously been successful.

Regardless of the time invested, shadowing is an opportunity to learn essential skills, network, and ask questions about being a doctor.

You're no longer alone on your journey to becoming a physician

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