Path to Medicine

Shadowing a Doctor

Shadowing a doctor(s) is of utmost importance when it comes to your pre med extra curricular activities. You need to show that you know what the life of a physician is all about, the best way to do that is to shadow a doctor in multiple different specialties.

The concept of why medicine will come up many different times during the medical school admission process, it did for me. Some of the best stories and moments that I knew medicine was for sure what I wanted to do with my life came while I was shadowing a doctor.

You need to spend time getting to know the physician, their specialty, and what their life is like. By getting to know the respective physician you are shadowing, that not only opens up more opportunity in your life, it creates the possibility of getting a letter of recommendation. Many schools require this, so please take the tie to know the doctor you are shadowing.Shadow a doctor

How to shadow a doctor

There are many different ways to set up shadowing a doctor. I had it easy… I worked full time at a hospital during my undergraduate degree, this created opportunities to get to know many different doctors from alot of varying specialties. Since I worked full time and went to school full time I had sporadic times of shadowing physicians. I would go here and there for  a few days in a row. The way I did things worked out well for me,  but like I said there are a lot of different ways to do it. Just remember to make your schedule work for them to allow for ease of shadowing.

One simple way to go about shadowing a doctor is to find a doctor you want to shadow.. simply google physicians in your area and pick a few. Then you need to call the office and give them a rundown of yourself, basically where you go to school and that you plan on attending medical school at this time… (whenever you plan on going). Then ask if the physician accepts students to shadow him. This is important because some doctors wont accept students, so talk to the office staff first.


Here is an example:

You: Hi, my name is xxxxxx I am a pre med student at X university. I am wondering if Dr. x will allow students to come shadow him/her?

Office Staff: Yes, he does allow students.

You: Okay, great! How does the process work at your office? I know at other places I need to verify my immunizations and sign HIPPA documents. And also when would it work best for him and the office to have me come?



Something like the conversation above would be appropriate to get you started. It might seem kind of like a daunting and uncomfortable task to be asking if you can shadow, but remember the worst that can happen is they say no. And just like above most of the time it will be a receptionist or medical assistant you are talking to, this is because the doctor is very busy. So don’t outright request to talk to the physician.

If they tell you no the physician doesn’t allow shadowing then politely say thank you for your time and move on. Doctors are extremely busy people, most of them have a practice to run and patients to see, so don’t take it personal if they tell you no, just find another doctor to ask.

Another great way is to ask your pre health adviser. I know at the University I attended the pre med adviser had a list of doctors and all the necessary paper work to fill out in order to shadow a doctor. So it oculdnt hurt to check with them as well as calling offices around your area.

From time to time there are going to be confidentiality forms and other things that need to be completed before you can shadow a doctor. Make sure you get all the paperwork done and are in direct compliance with whoever you are shadowing. This will make for a better relationship and aid with the possibility of more shadowing in the future.

During shadowing

When shadowing a doctor you want to show up in professional dress. This is key, you want to be cleanly groomed and look great. There is no need to be in a full blown suit as it may be distracting, but show up in professional clothes. (ie shirt and tie for men and women wear dresses or professional business clothes.)

While you are shadowing try to do just that…. be a shadow. Stay out of the way and just stand back and observe. Some physicians will allow you to be more involved, but let them make that call. Don’t interrupt the doctor while they are seeing a patient, wait until you both leave the room to ask questions.

That brings me to my next point…. ask the doctor questions. When you finish with a patient and are in between, feel free to ask a question or two. Don’t bombard him/her with questions, but ask logical questions. If you don’t have a logical question, then don’t ask one just to ask one. If you are consistently engaged while shadowing it could build relationships and help you with getting a letter of recommendation from the respective physicians.

Be respectfiul, mindful, and engaged! If you do these things and have  great interactions with the physician then it can be a wonderful opportunity to learn and confirm that medicine is what you want to do! Have fun!