Students who are interested in attending health professional schools will need experience with shadowing physicans 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.
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
In addition to observing the daily activities of a physican 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. A great book to consider reading before shadowing (for medical school students especially) is The Human Side of Medicine: Learning what it's like to be a patient and what it's like to be a physician" by Dr. Laurence Savett.
How do I find shadowing opportunities?
One way to find physicians to shadow is to look to your own family and friends. Are you related to a physician? Are some of your friends/family friends a physician? It does not matter if one of your shadowing experiences is with a physician that is related to you - what is important is the learning you gain from the opportunity!
Another way to find physicians to shadow is to look to your own personal doctors. Ask your personal family physician if they would be willing to let you shadow them. Do you go to a dermatologist, endocrinologist, cardiologist, etc? Ask them if they would give you the opportunity to shadow them.
For podiatry shadowing please contact Daniel Taubman, Career Promotion Coordinator at the American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine, at dtaubman@AACPM.org
Dr. Robert D. Katz, D.P.M. of the Cortez Foot and Ankle Specialists in Bradenton, FL, is also a podiatrist who is available for shadowing. To contact his office, please contact Robin Howells at 941-758-8818 ext. 221 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are a member of PAMSA, they also have a shadowing program for their students.
You can also shadow a pediatrician through the USF Pediatrics Reach Out and Read Program. Here is a synopsis about the program: You can make a positive impact on the lives of children and their families by participating in the Reach Out and Read early literacy program in which you can help to foster cognitive and emotional development in young children! See also Reach Out and Read Webpage. One of the unique benefits of this program is that after you have served as a volunteer reader for four times, then you can also begin to shadow a pediatrician (~ 2 hours a week), as long as you continue as a volunteer reader! (~ 2 hours a week). This program is available at the USF Health South and Health Park Clinics. Please contact Ellen Kent, MPH to sign up for a training session.
How do I prove my shadowing experiences when I apply to medical school?
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 occured.
- 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.
- What you learned: Often admissions committees care more about what you learned from your experience that what you specifically did. How did this shadowing experience impact you? 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.