The Dos and Don’ts of Job Shadowing

There is no question that you will want do whatever it takes to secure admission into medical school, right? Despite this being a true statement, most pre-med students do not know how advantageous it is to complete job shadowing FAR before you begin applying to medical school! It is a given that you are busy studying to earn good grades, but note the importance of making the time to shadow at least two or three physicians in various specialties, too. Not only will it look great on a medical school admissions application, but it will also help you learn if medicine is really the profession for you. Listed below are some tips related to job shadowing that you SHOULD and SHOULD NOT do.


DO – Decide on at least three possible specialties you might be interested in and find a local hospital or clinic nearby with physicians working in those specialties. Select at least one or two primary care specialties to show medical schools that you have an understanding of medicine and working directly with patients.


DO – Contact the Volunteer Office at any hospital or clinic to inquire about job shadowing opportunities. However, do not sign up as a volunteer. Ensure you clearly communicate your interest in job shadowing. If you are not able to get in via this route, ask family members or friends who know a physician that might permit you to shadow him or her. Network, network, network!


DO– Research the specialty prior to job shadowing! Learn about the environment of the office and some terminology related to the specialty. By doing a little bit a research, you will be able to formulate several questions to ask those you shadow and make the most of the time in your shadowing opportunity.


DON’T– Get discouraged if the physician(s) you select is unable to offer you a shadowing opportunity. It is not uncommon for physicians to not deny pre-med students shadow experiences because they have extra responsibilities at the time of your shadow request, such as research obligations, or being out-of-the-office for continuing medical education professional development.


DON’T – Show up late or dress unprofessionally. A very busy physician has agreed to allow you to shadow him or her. This is a formal opportunity to show how serious you are about learning more about the profession. Your presence is a reflection of the hospital and/or clinic you shadow in, and you need to follow the dress code policy of that institution.


DON’T – Be disappointed if you shadowed a physician in a specialty you were very interested in and discovered that it would not be a good professional fit for you. When you attend medical school, you will have more opportunities to learn more about various specialties to ultimately decide which specialties may or may not be a match with your skills and preferences.


DON’T– be shy about finding a mentor.  Many successful people are successful because they had the courage to seek out mentors.  This is not only an opportunity for a letter of recommendation, but also for an opportunity to access the massive amounts of experience and wisdom your mentor has amassed for years.

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