How many shadowing hours do I need for medical school?
Frequent questions prior to applying are: How many shadowing hours do I need? How many doctors do I get to shadow as a pre-med? These are great questions and med schools are definitely interested in your shadowing a lot of different physicians to get broad exposure.
Let’s get a little bit more specific
The question of how many hours you need to shadow is really one that doesn’t necessarily have a definitive answer, but let’s put one out there. A good number is approximately a hundred. So what does that mean? Remember, if you shadow a doctor for one day that’s already 10 hours. That might mean clinical shadowing three different doctors, over three different specialties, over three different weeks. Already you’re at a hundred hours. All told, it’s not the actual amount of hours, but more the quality of what you get out of it.
Tie the shadowing to your AMCAS
When you write in your AMCAS activities section, or your secondary essays about why you want to go into medicine, you want to be able to specifically tell them: “The time that I shadowed doctor so-and-so who is an orthopedic surgeon when he did a hip replacement and the patient got up the next day and was pain-free, that was amazing!” That’s the kind of experience that you want to have as a pre-med to make sure that medicine is truly what you want to do.
Medicine offers a really wide choice of specializations and is a broad career with all kinds of different opportunities. For you as a pre-med, it’s important to actually experience a range of different specialties.
Variety is key
Now, the next thing that med schools want to see is that you’ve actually shadowed a variety of different doctors. Remember, medicine is an incredibly broad specialty, you have neurosurgeons and you have pathologists and in between you may have internal medicine doctors, each of them does completely different things on a day to day basis. A neurosurgeon has a very different day from a pathologist who has a very different day from an internal medicine doc. As a pre-med, you want to have exposure to at least some spectrum of what medicine is and what medical doctors can do. Don’t have all your shadowing experiences just be the emergency medicine docs, go see a surgery, go see a pathologist, go see a radiologist. Get the spectrum of what people in medicine do.
Shadowing experience can also come from a variety of different activities. You may be a scribe, and that counts as some shadowing experience too. You may volunteer at a hospital or a free clinic and be shadowing physicians there. So, you see that there are all kinds of different ways to get shadowing experience.