Research by the Association of American Medical Colleges shows that 93.5 percent of the nation’s medical students who matriculated in 2014 have shadowed a physician or other healthcare professional. It’s a smart move that affords medical hopefuls a first-hand look at just what they can expect in their chosen profession and can significantly boost their success when applying to colleges and residency programs.
- Choosing a doctor to shadow: A best bet is your own physician. After all, you likely already have a good rapport with someone who has treated you or your family members. If you’re in high school or college, as for recommendations from your teachers, professors, pre-med or academic advisors, or from fellow students who already have shadowed doctors. Considering a particular specialty? Most hospitals have volunteeer coordinators who can match you with physicians practicing those specialites.
- Making the approach: Once you’ve chosen a few physicians you’d like to shadow, call or email to schedule a quick appointment. Be prepared to briefly explain your goals and experiences, inlcuding any medical studies or research you’ve completed so far and just how long you’d like to shadow, whether it’s a single day or a summer-long stint. Also, bring a written letter outlining this information so that the physician can review it later. Remember that their schedules are busy, so craft your “elevator pitch” to be short but passionate.
- Show up prepared: Dress professionally and wear flat, closed-toed, comfortable shoes as you’re likely to be standing or walking most of the day. Bring a notebook and pen so that you can take notes. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but wait until you’re on a break or between patients so as not to interfere with the doctor-patient communication. Find out beforehand whether the doctor you’re shadowing is comfortable with you engaging patients in conversation. In any case, understand that confidentiality is critical and that you likely will be asked to sign HIPAA compliance document stating that no patient details will be disclosed.
- Follow up: Once your shadowing experience is complete, be sure to send a handwritten thank you note to the doctor and staff, showing appreciation for their time and help. Also, ask for a letter of recommendation immediately, while the experience is fresh in the doctor’s mind. And, while it’s fresh in your own mind, make a list of related thoughts and accomplishments to include in your resume or personal statement when applying to medical schools.
For more ways to assure medical school success, consider enrolling in WOLFPACC’s Pre Med Head Start, COMLEX preparation or USMLE preparation courses. Call 904-209-3140 to schedule a consultation.