In the Pre-Prof Office, we often have students ask, “How do I go about shadowing a physician?” We anticipate that answering this question will become harder in the months and years ahead as many hospitals are citing issues related to patient safety and confidentiality as the impetus for fewer shadowing opportunities.
Please understand that every hospital has their own policies and procedures regarding the legality of shadowing physicians. So while some hospitals may prohibit it, others may be fine as long as you fulfill their requirements. You simply need to ask physicians if they will allow you to shadow them, and if they say yes, you’re good to go!
Two important notes:
- Johns Hopkins Hospital (JHH) is undergoing a review of their policies for students to shadow physicians. JHH is committed to supporting opportunities and it is likely you will be asked to complete a compliance checklist, HIPPA online training, a confidentiality agreement, criminal background check, code of contuct, etc., prior to gaining permission to shadow.
- Shadowing experiences may be included as part Semester Medical Tutorial or Surgical Rotation Intersession course.
The following information will be helpful to read if you are curious about shadowing:
Shadowing is observing
When we speak of shadowing, we are referring to observing. Shadowing can be applied to just about any profession, but shadowing a physician includes observing how a doctor spends his/her day, how a doctor interacts and communicates with patients, and how a doctor works with a health care team. Added benefits of shadowing are that it helps you determine if medicine is the right career choice for you, and, when you apply to professional school, it shows the admissions offices that you’ve worked inside a health care facility.
What to send to physicians
When you contact a physician regarding shadowing, there are two main elements to share with him/her:
- Your resume. It is of utmost importance that this be clean, neat, and look professional. We encourage all students to go to the JHU Career Center for guidance on developing a resume.
- A paragraph on why you are interested in shadowing that particular physician. Include the fact that you are a pre-med student studying at Johns Hopkins University, and that you have aspirations of becoming a physician. You should also include why you want to observe that physician or within that department.
Additional suggestions and tips
- Be professional. This includes arriving on time to each appointment, dressing professionally, and being courteous to everyone you meet.
- Know your limits. You are not a medical professional, so do not expect to participate in hands-on patient care.
- Keep a journal. On a regular basis, make notes about what you are observing and discovering in the clinic and with doctor-patient interaction. Include how all of this is meaningful to the overall experience of shadowing.
- Shadowing does not (and should not) be limited to just one day, one week or one doctor. We suggest shadowing multiple physicians in multiple settings over the course of your pre-med studies.
Guidelines for getting the most out of the doctor 'shadowing' experience by Laurence A. Savett, M.D., of the University of St. Thomas.
Shadowing Guidelines for Premedical Students, on the 2nd page of the "Premedical Student Tip Sheet," American Academy of Family Physicians, 2013.
5 Ways for Premed Students to Maximize Physician Shadowing by Ibrahim Busnaina, M.D. is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and coauthor of "Examkrackers' How to Get Into Medical School."
Guidelines for Clinical Shadowing Experiences for Pre-medical Students, established by the Association of American Medical College’s (AAMC) Group on Student Affair’s (GSA), Committee on Admissions (COA) in consultation with National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions (NAAHP) and the American Medical Association (AMA), and Dr. Elizabeth Kitsis, director of bioethics education, assistant professor, Epidemiology and Population Health and Medicine of Albert Einstein COM.