People don’t just happen to end up working as physicians — it takes an enormous amount of handwork and dedication. Certainly, it doesn’t happen overnight… Even for you nocturnists out there! Seriously though, those who make it through medical school did so because they truly wanted to become doctors. Still, that doesn’t mean they made that decision their first day on the job. Instead, most found doctor shadowing opportunities which led them to their ideal specialty and career path. If this is something you’re considering or have been asked to take on a shadow of your own, we’ll provide some tips for success:
For students wondering about the workflow of hospitals, the daily pace of physicians, and the entire experience of practicing, doctor shadowing opportunities are ideal. Actually, they’re a downright necessity! There is no real way to gauge one’s aptitude for medicine other than getting a first-hand look. Even before you dive into medical school, you’ve got to be absolutely assured that becoming a physician is for you. With these tips, you’ll make the most of your doctor shadowing opportunities and stay on the right course:
4 Tips for Doctor Shadowing Opportunities
1. Finding a Doctor to Shadow
The most obvious place to look is within your own life. If you have a good relationship with your own, current doctor then consider asking him or her if they could allow you to shadow them. If unsuccessful or you’d like a more specialized approach, check with professors or academic advisors to see whether they have any relevant connections. Some colleges are associated with hospitals or medical schools, so that’s an obvious route. Otherwise, try searching for local medical facilities nearby that provide doctor shadowing opportunities. Once you’ve locked something down, you’re onto the next tip!
2. Length of Shadowing Opportunity
When it comes to finding the right length of time for your doctor shadowing opportunities, this is something that takes planning. Based on your level of interest and an individual doctor’s schedule, you can find a suitable amount of time. Whether it’s just for one day or a few hours throughout several months, make sure you’re taking full academic advantage of the opportunity. For pre-med students, some of the best times are during spring or summer breaks. Additionally, ask the doctor about their time restraints. If they’re a locum tenens physician, they may be traveling to their next destination soon!
3. Preparing for Doctor Shadowing Opportunities
Once your shadowing opportunity has been lined up, preparation is the next step. Of course, you’ll want to dress professionally. This means dress pants and a tie for men, and dress pants or a dress for women. Since you’ll be on your feet all day, it’s important to wear comfortable shoes that are still formal.
Prepare a notebook with a potential list of questions you’ll ask the physician. You won’t want to be writing while visiting patients and be sure to keep all of the necessary HIPAA regulations in mind. On that note, doctors are required to introduce you to patients in order to make them aware that you are a pre-med student. Some people won’t feel comfortable with you in the room during some procedures, so remain flexible and expect to step out when asked.
4. Following Up
After any of your doctor shadowing opportunities, it’s integral to your success that you follow up with a thank you letter. Many physicians are happy to take on pre-med student shadows as they were once in your position. Whether it was the best or worst experience of your life, it’s still important to let the doctor know you valued their time. Similarly, this is the best time to ask for a letter of recommendation. The shadowing experience will still be fresh in their mind and these letters can be instrumental in applying for medical school.
What were your experiences with doctor shadowing opportunities? Let us know in the comments below!