My first shadowing experience was during the summer of my junior year in high school. Looking back, this experience definitely encouraged me to study medicine.
My first shadowing experience was with a pediatrician that my younger cousins go to. He is known to be the best pediatrician in the city where I lived. In his clinic, there was two pediatricians (including him), a resident, a third-year med student, a nurse practitioner, and about 5 nurses. For a day or two, I shadowed a pediatrician. For the rest of the time I shadowed, I followed a third year med student. I was able to see how pediatricians do their job and how they taught a med student (and getting pimped). Also, I had the chance to ask what responsibilities med students were required to keep up with (classes, tests/exams, rotations, experiences, etc). The med student I followed gave the patients a basic checkup first; later, the pediatrician would come in and complete the visit. The resident and nurse practitioner checked on the patients just like how the pediatricians were able to. Occasionally, I would be able to see what the nurses did before a pediatrician or med student walks in.
I love my first shadowing experience since I was able to see different levels of medical professions.
I strongly recommend that shadowing should take place before entering medical school. Although not all school require shadowing in their applications, shadowing will give you experience and most importantly, determine if you are willing to continue on this long journey.
For first time shadowing, I suggest that aspiring students should look into primary care physicians. This is mainly your family doctor or pediatrician. After shadowing your physician, shadow a specialty you would like to pursue (remember to keep an open mind!)
I recommend choosing physicians that enjoy giving aspiring students a chance to shadow. Physicians will have to worry about you and how it affects their work so I suggest finding a welcoming one!
Once you find a physician willing to shadow:
Make sure you always show up early. Maybe 15 minutes early.
Dress appropriately (formal) according to your physician’s dress code.
Wear comfortable (but still formal) shoes since you will be standing or walking most of the time.
Introduce yourself to the rest of medical practitioners and patients.
*Remember that you are shadowing, speculating the work of medical professionals. You are not a medical professional (yet okay).*
Avoid interrupting conversations.
Do not join in with patient examination unless offered to do so.
Don’t ask the patient questions. Don’t listen to their heart. Don’t touch patients.
SEND A THANK YOU NOTE
At the end of the day:
What have you learned?
Is this a profession you will be willing to pursue?
Ask for another shadowing session.
Perhaps, your physician would be eager to write your letter of recommendation!