College of Arts and Sciences, USF


What is shadowing and why do I need it?

Shadowing mainly includes observation of an individual including how they spend their day, how they interact and communicate with patients, and how they work with a health care team.  This experience allows student the opportunity to experience a “day in the life” of a health care professional as a way to determine if the career is a personally good fit.

Although it is rare for a program to require a specific number of shadowing hours, students who are interested in attending health professional schools will need experience with shadowing physicians before applying to their desired programs. It is important to shadow multiple physicians so that you gain insight into the daily life of all types of physicians. An important aspect of being a physician is the willingness to pursue life-long learning, and shadowing multiple physicians is just the beginning of this pursuit.

In addition to observing the daily activities of a physician and the interaction between themselves and their patients, you will want to make sure you take the time to have a meeting with the physicians after/before you shadow to ask them important questions you will not get a chance to ask during the day, such as how the physician organizes their day, stays current in their profession, address uncertainty with the patients, has work/life balance, etc.

Be sure to review some of the following resources prior to beginning your shadowing experience:

How do I find shadowing opportunities?

Finding opportunities can be extremely challenging due to restrictive policies and procedures of hospitals and clinics. However, some suggestions are below:

What happens after I schedule a shadowing experience?

Make sure that when you are shadowing you come prepared. Make sure to bring a notebook to take any notes of experiences that impact you or about concepts/terms/ideas that you want to learn. Also, dress professionally and turn your cell phone on silent- you are a professional, so make sure to represent yourself as such. Keep in mind as well to record the information to report later on your Health Professional application- this information is located on the bottom of this page

How do I prove my shadowing experiences when I apply to health profession programs?

Unlike volunteering in high school, there is NO official paperwork that is required for proving shadowing experiences. Therefore, it is important that you keep track of your shadowing experiences for yourself. The recommended way to do this is through a journal. Some information that you need to keep track of is:

  • Where: List the name and place your shadowing experience occurred.
  • Who: List the name of the physician you shadowed.
  • When: List the dates and hours spent shadowing.
  • What you did: Write a short synopsis of what you did during that day.
  • Your observations: Remember, often admissions committees care more about what you learned from your experience that what you specifically did. How did this shadowing experience impact you? What did you like or dislike? How might it make you a better health care provider in the future?
  • Contact information: List contact information for the office/physician that you shadowed. If your contact information is the physician's personal contact information, you might also want to get the contact information for their office/administrative staff, as that physician will most likely have many students shadowing him or her, and might not remember you specifically, so make sure that you have additional contact information.