A Medical Student’s Guide To Shadowing A Doctor

Shadowing gives you a glimpse of what happens in a doctor’s everyday life, preparing you to become one. The experience helps you familiarize yourself with the clinic or hospital setup. You may sense what goes on in the hospital from your visits to the doctor, but with shadowing, you get to learn all that happens and get up close with all clinical matters. 

If you’ve yet to decide what specialty to pursue, fret not! You’re not alone. Many other medical students pursuing their medical studies are in the same situation. However, you can get some insights by shadowing a doctor.

On that note, here’s a medical student’s guide on all that entails a shadowing experience:

How To Approach A Doctor And Ask To Shadow Them

Approaching a doctor seems daunting to many students, but it’s doable. You must proactively identify a doctor you’d like to shadow. If you’re lucky to have a family member working in the industry, you can ask for their assistance finding a doctor.

Alternatively, you can take it upon yourself to reach out to someone. You can still ask your relative to put in a good word. It goes a long way. On the same thought, you can check if your school has shadowing resources or opportunities.

Besides going to medical school, it’s vital to get exposure to the hospital environment. This will allow you to become more comfortable when it’s time for your rotations and, eventually, residency. 

The best way to get this exposure is to ask a doctor to allow you to shadow them. The process can include a letter for official and formal purposes. It’s best to learn to draft one and understand all that goes into writing the letter. For more insights on how to ask to shadow a doctor, you’d want to read this helpful post and apply some tips.

Why Shadow A Doctor?

Besides helping you decide on the career you want to build, shadowing has several other benefits. Firstly, you gain on-the-job skills that’ll come in handy once you graduate to become a doctor. It can show you how rewarding it is to work as a doctor or give you a clue about other healthcare jobs you may be interested in.

Secondly, you also learn tricks that get the job done. For instance, if you want to become a pediatric doctor, you should learn how to handle children. Regardless of specialty, however, shadowing a doctor teaches you how to communicate with patients and nurses. While you may not be able to interact with them directly, you can learn through observation.

Tips On What To Do During Shadowing

The goal of the shadowing experience is to learn. Here are some tips that help you get right into it:

  • Let the doctor know the extent of your knowledge and training
  • Ask questions
  • Communicate with patients whenever possible
  • Take notes
  • Dress appropriately
  • Prepare in advance for your interactions 
  • Adhere to hospital policies and rules
  • Build a working relationship with the doctor and hospital staff

You may already be aware of some of these guidelines. However, it’s a good rule of thumb not to interrupt the doctor when they’re attending to patients. Observe keenly and take notes of the procedures. The doctor may have a preferred time when they can answer your questions, whether during their break or after they clear a patient. Adhere to their rules as much as possible to not hinder the doctor from performing their duties. 

What To Do After Shadowing

Once the process is done and you’re ready to pack your bags, don’t forget to thank the doctor for allowing you to shadow them. You can do this verbally or by writing a thank you letter. You can also choose to give them a small gift of appreciation.

Some doctors are invested in your progress as you shadow them. They may have asked you to write daily reports and want you to share what you’ve learned in your experience. Be thorough as you explain what you’ve learned. The doctor may ask some questions to gauge your level of knowledge. Answer them to the best of your understanding. If they’re impressed, they may even write you a recommendation letter.

Final Thoughts

A shadowing experience could be all you need to decide on the right career path. Don’t underestimate the power of observation and mentorship as you might learn a few things not taught in class. These could be the key factors that set you apart from the rest of your classmates in medical school. From your experience, you may develop interests in a specific line of work and decide the kind of specialty you want to pursue as a doctor.

Carla Gayou
Carla Gayou

Carla is a high performing marketing professional with 5+ years of experience driving growth of in a variety of corporate and entrepreneurial environments. Strong command of digital operations with exposure to influencer marketing strategy, branding, analytics, SEO/SEM, customer success, content development, and social media Core expertise lies in managing end-to-end campaigns, creating memorable content, and facilitating improved conversion rates to enhance e-commerce operations. Adept in ensuring alignment with organizational goals, facilitating streamlined operations, and leveraging a data driven strategy used to make insightful marketing decisions.