December 2, 2020

How to SHADOW a Doctor: EVERYTHING You Need to Know

– Today, we're going to talkabout how to shadow a doctor.

Although physician shadowing is not explicitly requiredby medical schools, most will strongly advise applicants to obtain shadowing hours.

In addition to demonstratingyour commitment to medicine, shadowing is a great way to determine whether a career inmedicine is right for you.

I'm Dr.

Shirag Shemmassian, medical school admissions expert and founder of ShemmassianAcademic Consulting.

In this video, we'll answerfrequently asked questions about obtaining a shadowing position, so you can leverage your experience to become a competitivemedical school applicant.

Is shadowing necessary toget into medical school? Most medical schoolsstrongly advise students to shadow doctors throughout college.

Shadowing is the act of following a doctor while they see patients.

During the majority of the time, you're a silent observer.

You're not activelyparticipating in patient care.

Why do I need to shadow a doctor? There are two sides to this story.

Medical school admissions committees want to be completely confident that you know exactly whatyou're signing up for.

Because medicine is sucha coveted profession, admissions committees needto be extremely stringent with just who they offertheir limited seats to.

On the flip side, shadowingis also extremely beneficial for your own personal andprofessional development.

As I mentioned earlier, medicine is a true commitment, and the last thing you want is to delve headstronginto medical school, realize halfway throughthat it isn't for you, and have to pivot, despitespending the majority of your undergraduate careeras well as thousands of dollars investing in a committal fieldyou didn't know enough about.

It's to the benefit of both adcoms and you that you earn enoughshadowing hours to get a better sense of what medicineis like before you commit.

What is shadowing a doctor like? Unlike some of yourother clinical projects or volunteer work, shadowing a doctor is fairly hands-off.

Your role involvesbeing a silent observer, where you'll do your best tohang out in the background and observe the day-to-daylife of a physician as if you were a fly on the wall.

Again, shadowing is largelya passive experience, but at times, the physician may invite you to become a more active participant.

You may be asked to joinin during a physical exam, listening to the patients'hearts and lungs, and even partake in someof the history gathering by asking the patient anyquestions you may have.

In summary, expect to actas the physician's shadow.

While shadowing, bevigilant and take good note of what life as a physician entails.

If you have questions–andyou certainly should– ask them during the doctor's breaks or at the end of the day.

Remember, shadowing may be necessary in terms of medical school admissions, but you're also evaluating this profession on whether it is right for you.

How do I find doctors to shadow? More likely than not, there are countless doctorsand private practices around your communityor in nearby hospitals and urgent care facilities.

Unfortunately, these doctorscan be difficult to access.

They're busy professionals, and setting up shadowingfor interested students can be low on their prioritylist, especially if it involves them having to ask theiradministration for clearance.

Because of this, the easiestway to set up shadowing is to leverage your own personal network.

Simply ask someone you know, whether it's a family connection or yourown personal physician.

Many students don't knowany doctors personally or have connections to them, So don't worry if you're in this boat.

You can go ahead andmake these connections.

A great start is beginning with your own pediatrician or family doctor.

You have a pre-existingrelationship with this physician.

Chances are, they'll bemore likely to hear you out and let you shadow them.

After all, it can be flatteringfor a doctor's patient to want to enter thesame field as they did.

Of course, many doctors will still say no.

Sometimes they simplydon't have the bandwidth to accommodate a student.

Still, getting in contactwith them opens the door.

And even if they personallywon't let you shadow, they certainly have a network of professional colleaguesthey can forward you to.

Another avenue to consider is through official resourcesat your undergraduate program.

Reach out to your school's career center, pre-med advising team, or relevant professors.

They certainly will havea network of clinicians that they could be happy toreach out to on your behalf.

In addition, you may bestudying at a university with a dedicated medicalschool or hospital on campus.

Contact the medical schoolor hospital directly.

Many hospitals, whether they're affiliated with a university or not, have volunteer offices ordedicated shadowing programs that you could entertain.

If you've exhausted these avenues, move to cold calling andcold emailing local practices to ask if you can shadowone of their practitioners.

I know, the idea of coldcontacting sounds dreadful.

It can feel so dauntingto contact a clinician only to ask them for their time.

What I'd recommend to combat this fear is to tell you that many physicians love the prospect of teaching and often don't get enoughopportunities to do so.

How to make contact with aphysician you want to shadow.

Once you've determinedwhom you'd like to ask, start by reaching out via email or phone.

Either way, make sure to includethe following information.

An introduction consisting of your name, where you attend school, and how far along youare in your education.

A brief outline of your career goals and interests in medicine.

How you learned of that particular doctor.

Why you think they would be agood person for you to shadow.

What you hope to getout of the experience.

A direct request to shadow the doctor, including scheduling information.

Don't worry, this canall sound really forced, but we'll go throughexamples of possible phone and email scripts you canbase your conversation around.

Before we get therethough, if you're emailing, make sure to write aprofessional-sounding email.

And if you have oneready, attach your resume for the doctor to peruse on her free time.

This will give thedoctor additional insight to add to the body of the email.

If you're calling the office, be ready with a 30-secondabridged version of your message, in case you're met by voicemail.

Regardless of the medium, prioritize being polite and concise.

Doctors are busy people, and you've contacted them out of the blue asking for their time and attention.

On that note, one big mistake I see many premedical students make is that they're far toorestrictive with their own time.

Remember, you're askingfor the physician's time and attention, notthe other way around.

So be prepared to beflexible with your schedule.

It's certainly fine to let a doctor know if there are certain timesyou simply can't be available, like if you're going out of town, but make it easy for them to say yes.

Do your best to work around their schedule as much as possible, even if it means making a few compromises on your end.

Similarly, begin planning your experiences well before you'd actually like to shadow, to make time for doctors who might not immediately be available.

We recommend making contact with doctors at least a month or two in advance.

Many premed students shadow during their winter and summer breaks, so give these doctors as muchtime in advance as possible.

It will make it easier for them to say yes and will give you even more time in case you don't find awilling physician right away.

As promised, we'll now goover two email scripts: one for doctors you already know and one for doctors that you don't know or weren't personally introduced to.

Here's an email script fora doctor you already know.

Dear Dr.

Bryant, I hopethis email finds you well.

Since our last visit, I have begun college at Williams College, where I major in computationalbiology and am premed.

My experiences as your patient, as well as the eminent onesI've experienced in college, have led me to develop interest in family medicine and cardiology.

I am hoping to explorethese interests further by arranging some shadowing opportunities to learn more about aphysician's day-to-day life.

If possible, I'd like tospend some time in your office over my winter break, spring break, or summer, when I'll be back in Buffalo.

I'd sincerely appreciateyour time and guidance.

Please let me know atyour earliest convenience.

I'd be happy to discuss whatdays would be convenient for you via email or over the phone.

Many thanks, Ryan Rothberg.

Here's an email scriptto ask to shadow a doctor whom you don't know personally.

Dear Dr.

Bautista, My name is Kevin Wertz, and I'm a sophomore at UCSD majoring in neuroscience.

I'm writing because I'm considering applyingto medical school, and I'm hoping to solidify that decision by gaining a more intimate understanding of the profession through shadowing.


Megan Chernof, UCSD'sneuroscience advisor, referred me your way and suggested that you'd be a goodperson to touch base with given my interest in neurology.

Would you be willing toallow me to shadow you for a period of timein the upcoming months? I would be grateful for any amount of time that you could spare, whether that's one day or a few.

I'll be out of San Diegoduring the first week of April, but am otherwise available.

If you wouldn't mind, please let me know whatdays would work for you, and I will rearrange my scheduleto make those dates work.

Should you need any other information, please let me know.

I have also attached myresume for your perusal.

Thank you so much foryour time and attention.

I hope to hear back from you soon.

Best, Kevin Wertz.

How to ask a doctor toshadow over the phone.

Quick note: we recommendreaching out via email first, but if you only havephone contact information or someone tells you to reachout over the phone, try this.

Here's a phone scriptwhen leaving a message for a physician you already know.

Hey Dr.

Bryant, hope all is well! This is Ryan Rothberg, your former patient, calling from Williams College.

I'm a freshman premed student here studying computational biology and I'm calling becauseI'm hoping to set up some shadowing opportunities to learn more about the profession.

I'm wondering if you'd be open to me spending some time in your office.

Please give me a call backat your earliest convenience at 123-456-7890.

If it's easier, youcan reach me over email at Ryan dot Rothberg, that's R-O-T-H-B-E-R-G, three at Williams dot E-D-U.

Have a great day and Ihope to hear from you soon.

How much shadowing should I do? One important guidingquestion to ask yourself is: do you have sufficient shadowing hours to demonstrate an understanding of what being a clinician roughly entails? Quantitatively, yourgoal will be to shadow anywhere from two to four physicians for 50 to 100 hours totalacross multiple specialties.

Just as important as shadowing across different medical contexts, for example in-patient versus out-patient or operating room versus community clinic, is to show adcoms that youknow what a doctor does.

The more variety of practices you've seen, the more you can convince an adcom that you've done your due diligence in getting exposed to muchthat medicine has to offer.

What are the best practices tokeep in mind while shadowing? While shadowing a doctor isa largely passive activity, there are many things that you can do to ensure you reap the fullbenefits of the opportunity.

I'd recommend bringing a small notebook, something you can fit into your pocket to jot down anythingyou'd like to remember or discuss with the doctor at the end of the day or during breaks.

I'd also recommendtransferring these notes, ensuing conversations with the doctor, and your general observationsto a computer document.

These notes will provideinvaluable material for application essays.

It's never too soon to takedown notes of these encounters.

The more detailed you can be, the better, when it comes time to explain to ad coms why you want to be a physician.

It's completely acceptable for you to share your shadowingexperiences in your application, so long as you omit orchange identifying details, such as a patient's name, date of birth, address, etc.

If you have the luxuryof shadowing the doctor for more than just a day, make sure you go backhome, review your notes, and come back to clinicwith pointed questions about the way the doctormanaged particular cases or other general questions that you may have about the profession.

In short, make sure you'reprepared with questions, so that when the doctoroffers a couple minutes of his time to address them, you can take full advantage.

Lastly, when your shadowingexperience has come to an end, make sure to leave thedoctor with a personal, hand-written thank-you note.

You'll come across as anappreciative, mature adult, who recognizes the value of thedoctor's time and attention.

I can't stress this enough.

It's a tiny gesture thatcan go a very long way.

How do I request aletter of recommendation from a doctor I shadowed? Requesting a letter of recommendation should be rather simple if you've built a positive relationship with the physician you shadowed.

Do note that if your experiencewas strictly passive, it may be difficult for your physician to write you a strong letter of rec, especially given the fact that the doctor knows little about yourinterests, work ethic, and other pertinent qualities.

Just because you shadowed a physician doesn't mean you must get a letter of recommendation from them.

That said, if you'rehoping for a letter of rec, it's best to ask relatively soon after your shadowing experience is over.

That way, you'll remainfresh in the doctor's mind as they're writing for you.

You can store theseletters of recommendation using services like Interfolio until you need them for your applications.

If you found this video helpful, give it a thumbs up and subscribe so you don't miss out on new videos.

And if you'd like to learn more about the med school admissions process, including a whole section on selecting the rightextracurricular activities, click the link in the description to get my free comprehensive guide, “How to Get Into Medical School”.

The strategies in the guide are the same ones we useto routinely help students get into schools like Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Mayo, and UCSF.

Alright, thanks again for watching! See you next time.


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