Staying Healthy: Clinical Shadowing
One very important part of any premed experience and study is shadowing a physician as they make their rounds in hospital, clinical and office settings. Shadowing is not explicitly required, but it is advised to shadow a practicing physician long before applying to medical school and preferable during premed studies.
Shadowing is a volunteer experience and gives premed students valuable information on becoming a doctor or a medical professional. Shadowing can provide information as to whether or not medicine is a good fit for a career, gives students the opportunity to speak credibly about medical experiences on applications, and gives the student the opportunity to decide on a specialty.
Getting the Most out of Shadowing
• First find a physician who is willing to have you shadow them as they go about their daily duties. Leverage your network to find the perfect physician, or just cold call medical offices for a shadowing opportunity. Most physicians will be very accommodating.
• Shadowing a specific medical specialty can be rewarding, but many medical schools prefer that you do have some experience in family practice or surgery. These are well rounded practices and give you an idea of what you are up against when you enter medical school.
• Shadowing physicians in a medical school setting allows you to be with medical students, residents and the supervising physician. You shadowing will be seen as a regular activity instead of a somewhat invasive practice.
• When shadowing, ensure that you are professional in your attire. Wear business casual clothes and do act professional. There have been situations where a shadowing student dressed casually and was asked to leave and not come back. This definitely will not bode well for you attempts to get into a medical school.
• Do ask questions of the supervising physician. Questions can prove that you are interested. Hold your questions, however until the end of a patient exam or at the end of the day. A shadowing experience should be quiet and contained. You are not there to interrupt exams or procedures with questions. If the attending physicians wishes to discuss the significance of the procedures, that is an added benefit.
• Shadowing premeds can often be brought into more exciting and eventful clinical services. The physician you are shadowing just let you observe an unusual surgery case or watch a significant procedure.
• Familiarize yourself with the “downsides” of medicine. Go to clinics that are routine and shadow the staff as they take care of everyday problems. This will prove to the medical school entry board that you are aware that medicine is not all glamour and emergencies; it is basically everyday exams and treatments.