Shadowing a doctor is the perfect opportunity to obtain the vital clinical exposure needed for any medical school admissions. In this article, we will present eight practical tips on how to maximize your shadowing experience.

For any pre-med, shadowing a doctor should be considered a necessity. Shadowing offers valuable first-hand experience within the field of medicine to help prospective medical students decide if medicine is a career they really want to pursue. In addition, medical schools frown upon students with no shadowing experience; the best way to demonstrate to schools your commitment to medicine is through countless hours spent within the medical setting.

Before you pursue shadowing opportunities, however, it is important to know how to find and shadow a physician. In this article, we present eight practical tips on how you can maximize your shadowing experience.

1. Make sure it will give you clinical exposure: The point of shadowing a doctor is to see them work in a clinical setting. Therefore, it is important that your shadowing experience allows you to see how physicians interact with patients.

2. Do not be afraid to reach out to your network or make cold calls: The hardest part of shadowing a physician is finding a physician to shadow. The best way to find a physician is by reaching out to your network. Ask your friends, parents, classmates and teachers to see if they know a physician who would welcome the idea of shadowing. If that does not work, you need to search for physicians yourself and make phone calls. A majority of physicians are open to the idea of shadowing; they have been in your situation and are eager to help a future doctor, but you have to be proactive. A shadowing opportunity is not going to magically appear in front of you.

3. Try to schedule full days of shadowing: It is important that you see all that a physician does, not just when he or she has exciting patients and cases. Shadowing a physician for a full day will allow you to truly see the daily life of a doctor.

4. Dress professionally: Although you probably will not be interacting with patients, you will still be in the same room with patients. Therefore, it is important that you dress appropriately to help maintain the professionalism of the clinic.

5. Ask a lot of questions: For a pre-med, shadowing can be a great learning experience. However, you must not be afraid to ask questions. If something confuses you, jot it down in your notebook and remember to ask the physician after he or she finishes the day’s rounds. Physicians usually love when eager students ask them about their job.

6. Reflect on your experiences: If and when you finally apply to medical school, you will have to go through medical school interviews. During the interviews, it is common for medical schools to ask about your shadowing experiences. Thus, it is important that you remember all you have observed so you can discuss it with your interviewer. To help you remember, you should reflect and record all your shadowing

7. Ask for a recommendation letter promptly after finishing your shadowing rotation: An important factor in a medical school application is the recommendation letters. If you desire a recommendation letter from the physician you shadowed, make sure to ask him or her immediately after you complete your commitment. If you ask for the recommendation years later, the physician might no longer remember you well enough to write a respectable letter.

8. Follow up with a thank you letter: To help maintain a positive relationship, write a thank you letter to the physician and the office staff for giving you the opportunity.

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