What does it mean to shadow a physician? What should you expect from physician shadowing? What is the experience like and what should you be looking to gain from it? Find some answers in the following article.

The best way to know what career best suits you is to get some sort of first hand exposure to that specific career. For many careers, this means taking part in an internship. For a career in medicine, however, you need to go to medical school before you can actually work as an intern. With the option of interning gone, the final, and one of the most effective options to get acquainted with medicine is to shadow physicians.

What does it mean to shadow a physician? What should you expect from physician shadowing? What is the experience like and what should you be looking to gain from it?

First, shadowing a physician means that you are following the doctor as he or she engages with his or her daily duties. You observe how the doctor interacts with patients, performs procedures, converses with his coworkers, and even how he spends his lunchtime. You are not expected to do much, especially since you know very little about medicine.

There is an incredible amount of variability in shadowing. Depending on the specialty, practice setting, time pressures, and personality of the doctor you are shadowing, your time could be rich and engaging or a time where you become a literal shadow. Your physician might not involve you in any of his daily routine, or he could be incredibly accommodating and ask you to do more than you expected. No matter what the situation may be, when you do decide to shadow a physician, it is best to keep your expectations low. Do not be surprised if you are not asked to help with any procedures or conduct medical interviews with patients. As a shadower, you are there primarily as an observer. If you do want your experience to be somewhat significant, you must be somewhat proactive and intentional.

||Read: How Do I Know That I Want To Be A Doctor?||

One of the best ways to be proactive is to ask you, by means of inner monologue, and the doctor questions.

Some questions you can ask yourself are:

1. Can I see myself doing the doctor’s tasks on a daily basis?

2. What am I attracted to about this profession/specialty?

3. Is there anything that I dislike?

4. Am I more drawn to diagnostic problem solving or performing procedures?

5. What makes this experience meaningful?

6. Does this increase or decrease my motivation in becoming a doctor? Why?

7. Do I enjoy being around patients?

||Read: Reasons To Be A Doctor||

Some questions you can ask the doctor are:

1. What do you like most and least about your job?

2. How did you get to where you are today?

3. Can you explain more about X disease?

4. Do you specific strategies or tips when engaging with patients?

5. How does your profession affect the other areas of your life (Ex. Family)?

6. Do you have any advice for me?

||Read: The Importance of Mentorship||

The point of asking these questions is to help you find purpose and pleasure in shadowing. There are three parties involved when you shadow: the physician, the patient, and you. The first benefit of shadowing is that it provides you a great way to build a relationship with a physician. He or she can serve as your mentor or friend. You can ask for a letter of recommendation and/or a referral to another physician to shadow. Second, shadowing allows you to engage with patients, giving you the opportunity to learn more about them and their ailments. Hearing patient’s stories was one of the biggest reasons why I enjoyed shadowing. Lastly, shadowing a physician should challenge you and grow a greater hunger to learn more about medicine. You should finish your shadowing term wanting to be in your physician’s shoes in the future. Shadowing gives you tangible goals to work towards as you realize more of your passion for medicine.

At the end of the day, shadowing is really what you make of it. While shadowing will be different based upon who or where you shadow, you will still be the one who controls expectations, thoughts, and level of commitment. Make sure to go into your shadowing experience with an open mind, ready to learn, be impacted and moved. You never know; your most meaningful shadowing experience could become a major part of your personal statement.

**This article was first posted on US News Educaiton.

 The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ProspectiveDoctor.

 

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Edward Chang

Edward Chang is the Co-founder and Director of Operations of ProspectiveDoctor.com. He graduated from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and is currently a urology resident at the University of Washington. He also attended UCLA as an undergraduate, graduating with a major in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology. If you are interested in contributing to ProspectiveDoctor.com, please contact him at edwardchang@prospectivedoctor.com. Follow him on Twitter @EdwardChangMD and Prospective Doctor @ProspectiveDr.

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