Shadowing provides an opportunity for you to gain exposure to the healthcare field you are interested in and develop a clear understanding of what life in that profession entails. It is a chance to observe a professional as they go through a routine day seeing patients, completing paperwork, talking with insurance companies, etc. Because shadowing is meant to be just observational, it does not fulfill other requirements to gain hands-on experience interacting with patients. Go to the Healthcare Experiences link for information about the hands-on experience expected by health professions programs.
Professional schools want to know you have had enough experience with professionals in the field to know that it is something you really want to do and that you have a good understanding of what your life will be like. In addition, it is a great opportunity to ask questions and develop rapport with professionals. You will likely need at least one letter of recommendation from someone in the field you have chosen. You will get a better letter if you spend some time getting to know the people you shadow.
You are expected to demonstrate dependability and professionalism, while discovering skills that will benefit you as a healthcare professional. Some programs look for separate shadowing and patient contact experience, while others will consider them combined. Plan to shadow each professional for a minimum of 9-12 hours.
Listed below are the number of overall shadowing hours we typically see from students who get accepted to health professions programs:
It is up to you to find shadowing experiences that will work best for you. One place to start is by talking to your own healthcare providers. Are they willing to have you shadow? Do they know someone who may be willing to have you shadow them? A second place to start is by asking people you know if they know of anyone you can contact.
Cold calling offices is one of the least effective ways to find shadowing opportunities. Start by asking people you know before taking this route.
Pre-med Students: There are limited spaces available for pre-med students to shadow because of the demand for shadowing experiences in this area. Many clinics and organizations are restricting the students who can shadow to those who have gone through an initial screening at their university. The Pre-Health Office manages a shadowing program to help you get connected with physicians. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.