Shadowing a doctor will accomplish so much for your candidacy as a premed that you should go out and start searching for a doctor to shadow right after you finish reading this article.
Shadowing does two very important things for you at once: Shadowing a doctor as they go about their work will show you everything a real doctor actually does on the job, and shadowing also gives you the real-world experience you need to be confirm your decision to pursue a career in medicine.
How to find a doctor to shadow
1. Finding a shadowing experience is the hardest step. Here’s what to do: Ask your campus pre-health adviser if the school maintains any relationships with local doctors. Your adviser might be able to connect you with a list of local doctors who are open to student shadowers.
2. If you’re back home for the summer, simply go to local medical offices near your home and ask if you can shadow their staff doctor. You’ll have to get over your nerves here…if asking a doctor to shadow makes you really nervous than this will be a great way to get used to interacting with people you don’t know.
3. Ask your family doctor.
4. Volunteer at a clinic, build a relationship with the doctors, and ask them for a shadowing experience.
Note: You should only shadow a doctor who specializes in a medical field you’re interested in. If you’re absolutely sure you don’t want to be a primary care physician, don’t shadow your family doctor! Look for the shadowing experience that you want to get, and go get it.
Can’t find a doctor to shadow? Volunteering Alternatives.
How to ask a doctor about shadowing — and how to get them to say “yes”
There is etiquette you need to follow when you ask a doctor for a shadowing experience. You should begin making arrangements for shadowing a doctor at least a month before you want to begin.
Once you have selected the doctor to shadow, call the doctors office or go in person and explain your request in a professional and courteous manner. Be specific! Tell the doctor or office manager what type of experience you’re looking for: Specify how long you would like to shadow and what hours you will commit to.
Understand that you’re asking for a big favor — you’re not going to be contributing much to the office and the doctor has to put up with malpractice issues, HIPPA law and other legal pains, so make sure the doctor and office manager see that you’re calm, patient, professional and unlikely to do anything unpredictable.
One thing that will encourage a doctor to say “yes” is if you can translate. Being bi-lingual is a huge asset at a diverse medical clinic.
If you’re courteous, professional, and very direct about what you want, you should get an answer from the doctor quickly.
Up next: How to prepare for shadowing, how to interact with patients, and how to make your shadowing experience count.