How To Ask To Shadow A Doctor

November 22

Table of Contents

Physician shadowing is an excellent opportunity for pre-med students to experience a typical day in a doctor's life. Even more crucially, the doctor you will shadow is a wealth of information, wisdom, and concepts. The chance to ask them questions and learn from them is priceless for a future medical student.

  • However, how do you know the right doctor to shadow?
  • How do you approach them in case you want to shadow them?
  • What are the things to look forward to when shadowing a doctor?

If you are eager to find answers to these questions, this article is for you. In this post, we will help you ask to shadow a doctor. 

What is Shadowing, and Why Is It Important in Medical School?

Shadowing is spending a whole workday with a doctor and monitoring what they do. To better understand the realities of a doctor's life before enrolling in medical school, pre-med students typically shadow. 

By demonstrating to students the workloads and schedules of various types of doctors, shadowing can also assist students in selecting a specialization.

It will help you comprehend what a typical day in the life of a physician is like and give you relevant experience for use in medical school applications and interviews. 

In addition, it is a fantastic way to get acquainted with various medical specialties and settings.

What happens in the hospital setting could completely differ from what you anticipate. You might want that reality, or it might change what you desire from your profession. 

The purpose of shadowing includes doing that. Before you get too far into medical school, you should be sure that it is what you truly desire because it demands a lot of education.

You will gain valuable experience by working as a doctor's assistant. 

Additionally, you will benefit from it when it comes time to apply for medical school.

Finally, your own medical journey may benefit significantly from observing a doctor in action.

How to Choose a Doctor to Shadow?

You probably have many questions regarding shadowing as a pre-med. We are here to address all of them and provide you with the basic knowledge you will need for this component of your medical school application.

Here are the top five methods for finding a doctor to shadow pre-med students like you.

Consult Your Social Network for Suggestions

You may know someone who does if you do not have direct contacts. If you have any personal connections in the medical industry, who might be willing to welcome observers, ask your family, friends, or teachers. 

Pre-health counselors can also be a handy tool. Finally, ask around to find out if any of your social network's members are medical practitioners.

Consult Your Own Physician

Take advantage of these opportunities to interact with the professionals in these hospital settings, as almost everyone must visit the clinic occasionally for medical care. 

You might be able to shadow your doctor, or perhaps they have colleagues that will accept student observers.

When you next visit them, bring up your desire for a medical career and direct the conversation toward shadowing. But until you ask, you will not know if they will say yes or no.

Use an Official Shadowing Program

Several student organizations and hospitals establish shadowing programs to connect pre-health students with doctors. These are fantastic alternatives because they have already done much of the work for you. 

Please be aware that this may not be the quickest approach to start shadowing because an application is usually always necessary for these programs.

Furthermore, you might not have complete control over the role or specialty you shadow. 

Whatever the case, you ought to undoubtedly benefit from these official shadowing programs, especially if you are having trouble locating shadowing hours through other channels.

Establish More Connections

Your network of health professionals can be swiftly expanded and improved by participating in research or volunteering. 

Look for volunteer options allowing you to interact directly with medical professionals. Even some volunteer organizations encourage pre-med students to shadow while they are there.

Given that many scientific or clinical research teams comprise clinicians and physicians, conducting research can also be valuable for the network with medical specialists. However, if you do it for the shadowing hours, do not volunteer or research.

However, think of shadowing as a pleasant side benefit.

Email Other Doctors 

If everything else fails, inquire with nearby medical professionals directly about shadowing. 

Send a concise email to them professionally introducing yourself and expressing your desire to observe them.

Connect with them by expressing an interest in their area of expertise or a commonality of background (college, birthplace, gender, race, etc.). 

Be ready for them to reply negatively or say no. Be not disheartened. 

There is a good chance that one doctor will let you shadow them if you get in touch with enough of them.

Sample Questions Pre-Med Students Should Ask a Doctor They Want to Shadow

Once you are shadowing, you must ask doctors for pertinent information that will help you maximize the shadowing opportunity. 

But coming up with questions might be incredibly intimidating if they are still working on a crucial task when you are engrossed in their regular activities.

How do you decide which inquiries to make in a short amount of time while yet being polite and professional? 

We have gathered and explained a list of questions to ask while observing a physician. 

What is the Hardest Part of Practicing Medicine?

Many people base their professional decision on the value of money. We must have money to survive, after all. 

But remember that every profession has its difficulties, some more difficult than others. Ensure that you can handle the demands of a career in medicine.

Is Your Job Enjoyable?

Although it might seem obvious, many doctors continue to work full-time — and frequently overtime — well into their mid-sixties. 

A fulfilling career will enhance your life rather than make it more difficult.

What Traits Are Necessary for a Good Doctor?

Knowing insider information about the type of individual who excels in medicine is priceless. 

You can assess your compatibility by contrasting your qualities, traits, and abilities with those the doctor lists. 

Knowing if you have a natural inclination is a fantastic place to start when undecided about your career decision. Many abilities and attributes can be cultivated over time.

How Did You Pick Your Medical Institution?

One of the most critical steps in becoming a doctor is deciding which medical schools to apply to. When selecting your current college or institution, you must consider costs, acceptance rates, location, and many other factors. 

The doctor you are shadowing may be able to shed some light on their own journey.

How Did You Decide on Your Area of Expertise?

You may be confident that you want to become a doctor but are unsure about what area of medicine to concentrate on. 

You can choose the best discipline for you by considering how the doctor you are shadowing picked their career.

Inquire about their opinions of that discipline, specifically if you are shadowing someone in the field you want to pursue. Also, inquire about the characteristics of a successful person in that particular field.

How Often Do You Work Both Within and Outside the Hospital?

When you ask this question, be mindful of your objectives regarding the number of hours you want to work, the number of hobbies you want to pursue, and the amount of time you want to spend with friends and family.

For instance, an OB/GYN who works mostly in the maternity department can have irregular hours because newborns do not adhere to a regular 9 to 5 schedule. 

A dermatologist or psychiatrist is less likely to be contacted for emergencies and can maintain normal office hours. 

However, many doctors, such as internal medicine and pediatrics, may rotate through an on-call schedule within their clinic. 

Ascertain the work and life balance of the physician you are shadowing and what is expected of those in their expertise.

What Portion of Medical School is the Most Difficult and Rewarding?

Most of the inquiries up to this point have concerned becoming a doctor. You must, however, get through medical school first to achieve that aim. 

A doctor's perspective on what to anticipate as a fully-fledged medical student can help you prepare for the next phase of your life. 

Medical school is indeed challenging. However, many students who choose careers as doctors also value their education. 

As you think about a medical career, this is a terrific question to ask everyone who has completed medical school, including practicing physicians, residents, medical school students, and others.

What Do You Wish You Knew Before Enrolling in Medical School?

The most exhaustive research will not provide all the required information regarding a stable job. However, observing doctors may give you an advantage in areas where research is impossible.

For instance, many students need to realize how crucial soft skills like cooperation and communication are to be successful doctors. Of course, it goes without saying that you must be able to interact with patients. 

Still, it would help if you also collaborated successfully with other doctors, nurses, and hospital or clinic administrators.

If you are a severe introvert, you might have more difficulty than you anticipated with the amount of social engagement needed.

How to Ask to Shadow a Doctor?

It is obvious how physician shadowing can be crucial to your application to medical school. 

Still, it can also be a great way to find a mentor in your field. Therefore, you might be considering how to approach a doctor about shadowing them in light of these advantages and how many opportunities you should aim for.

Listed below are the tips on how to ask a doctor to shadow.

Research Specialties First

It is probably too early to decide what kind of doctor you want to be. 

Nevertheless, completing some preliminary research might give you a clearer idea of which positions would be a suitable fit. Consider your areas of expertise, how you envision yourself relating to patients, and your natural talents.

Many pre-med students do not have as clear of a direction, and that is okay. 

However, other students clearly know what type of physician they ultimately want to become. Therefore, it will be highly beneficial to these students.

Inquire About Possibilities

Use your college network whether you have just graduated or are pursuing your undergraduate degree. 

Many faculty members who assist pre-med students at undergraduate institutions know the options available.

Reach out to other students who are studying medicine if you want to. 

Ask any graduates who went on to attend medical school about any shadowing experiences they had before being accepted if you know of any.

Obtain Contact Details

You can search for your preferred doctor's email address through various methods. They can either be obtained via personal contacts or found online through their places of employment. 

Make a list of the people you want to contact and include any additional details that could be important. 

For example, to make your request for a shadowing opportunity stand out, mention any clinical or research interests you may have.

Contact Doctors Via Email

Every email you send out needs to be personalized. 

We advise waiting for a response from one doctor on your list to email before moving on to the next. It is crucial to keep your email brief and to the point.

Follow-up Promptly

Due to their busy schedules, healthcare professionals must read many emails daily. 

Do not panic if you have not heard anything after a week. 

Instead, send a follow-up email in its place. The email you sent earlier and this one ought to be quite similar.

If necessary, you may continue to email them once each week. Be patient but keep trying. Doctors will frequently be grateful that you are trying to stay in touch.

Send a Thank You Letter

Being able to observe a doctor is a valuable opportunity. 

Write a thank you message after you have shadowed and deliver it to the doctor on your last day. 

This letter should express your gratitude for their time and consideration during your experience.

In addition, you can request a letter of recommendation if you believe the shadowing went well. Being friendly with the doctor you shadowed always benefits you as an applicant.

How to Ask to Shadow a Doctor by Email or Phone

Once you have chosen someone you want to question, contact them by phone or email. In either case, be sure to include the following details:

  • An introduction that includes your name, the school you attend, and how far along in your schooling you are
  • An overview of your professional aspirations and interest in medicine
  • How you found out about that specific doctor
  • What do you intend to gain from experience, and why do you believe they would be a suitable person for you to shadow
  • A specific request to observe the physician, along with a timeframe 

If communicating via email, be careful to compose a formal email and think about including your résumé to offer the doctor a more complete image of who you are. 

When calling, have a concise version of your request ready if you need to leave a message. Aim for thirty seconds or less. Since doctors are busy, you should be kind, professional, and concise.

In light of that, be ready to be adaptable to your timetable. 

While informing a doctor of any occasions when you will inevitably be unavailable is acceptable, you want to make it as simple as you possibly can for them to answer yes. This requires making as many accommodations for their schedule as possible. This means making some compromises on your part…if needed.

Similarly, schedule your experience far before the time you would like to shadow to allow for doctors who might not be readily available. 

We advise contacting physicians at least a month beforehand but allowing yourself even more time may be advantageous if you don't immediately find a match. 

Even though shadowing hours can be completed whenever before going to medical school, including during a gap year, you should think about starting them as early as possible. 

If you decide that medicine is not the right career for you or want to pursue another specialization, you still have the time.

Sample Emails Asking a Doctor to Shadow

For your reference, here are a few sample emails asking a doctor to shadow. You may use this template but ensure that you modify it accordingly…depending on your own unique situation.

Sample Email 1:

Greetings, Dr. Tan

I am Jessica Jung. I am in my fourth year of pre-medicine at the University of McKinley. I intend to continue my education in orthopedic surgery, and I learned about your contributions to the profession via your colleague, Dr. Mills. 

I'm contacting you to see if we can arrange a time for me to shadow you at Hawkins Orthopedic Surgery Center. 

If possible, three full days would be perfect and allow me to learn about your job and daily schedule. However, shadowing for at least one day during the following four months would be very appreciated.

I hope to be as agreeable with my schedule as possible, knowing your hectic schedule and the value of your time. I'm available whenever you need me, except the week of February 7–13. 

Please let me know of any times and days that could suit your schedule if you're interested in allowing me to shadow.

Please inform me if there is anything I can do to make this opportunity more feasible or if you need any additional information from me. I sincerely appreciate your attention and time. It will be an honor to meet you.


Jessica Jung 

Sample Email 2:

Greetings, Dr. Kumar,

I am John Hale, a third-year Neuroscience major and Biotechnology minor at Boston University. 

I'm writing to you because I'm interested in what you do in neurosurgery. Professor Celine Carols, a colleague of yours, gave me your contact information.

Would you be willing to let me shadow you for at least one full working day some time in the upcoming three months, preferably April-June? 

In that time frame, I'd like to shadow you for at least three days to see you at work at Palmers Hospital and in your own practice.

However, I would be grateful for any opportunity to watch your work in action, even if it were just for one day.

Please be aware that I won't be available from May 27 to June 1 due to a conference; otherwise, I can be flexible with my schedule. If you can accommodate this request, please recommend some dates and times that are convenient for you.

I'll be happy to work with those suggestions to find times that work for both of our schedules and will reply with a suggested course of action.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require any additional information from me considering this request. We appreciate you taking the time to read this message.


John Hale

Additional FAQs – How to Ask to Shadow a Doctor?

Is Shadowing a Clinical Experience?

No. Shadowing and clinical experience are viewed distinctly by medical schools. 

You will frequently actively participate as a medical team member and have face-to-face interactions with patients during clinical encounters. This is a crucial step in your pre-medical development. 

Shadowing is a passive activity in which you observe a doctor for one or more shifts, from the moment they arrive until they leave. 

Even though there is little direct patient contact, shadowing will give you a more thorough idea of a typical day for a practicing doctor.

How Many Hours of Shadowing Do I Need?

Many medical schools do not require prospective students to complete a shadowing program. However, shadowing is usually highly advised.

There is no set number of hours; many institutions will merely demand or advise shadowing without a particular duration in mind. 

It is essential to research the exact needs of the schools because some will have strict shadowing requirements. Determine the minimum number of hours necessary and aim for that.

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

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