Physician Shadowing Roadblock

Hello all

So I’ve come across a roadblock of yet another nature. I’m trying hard to find a physician to shadow. My problems are as follows:

  1. my PCP is in another state (i just moved) so I dont really have any connections where I am now and cant ask her.

  2. I found 4 pages of doctors in 10 different specialties on my dads desk (he’s always ill). I made photocopies immediately.

    However, after about a dozen, I’ve given up on googling them one by one to find their contact information. It’s tedious and a hit-or-miss situation. I could go on, but there’s gotta be a better way.

  3. Im not a part of my schools pre-med society (yet) so I cant use their services.

    Any suggestions as to how I might work around these issues and find a physician to shadow?

    Thank you !

Get in your car and drive out to a local hospital. Look for a doctor’s building or some small doctor’s offices around there. This should give you some names of some doctors you can contact.

Now, here’s what has been suggested to me for cold-call introduction. Write a nice, brief letter explaining who you are, what you want, and your qualifications. Go into the office in person and explain your situation to the receptionist. Give her the letter and ask if she can give it to the doctor. Tell her you will follow up in a week. Follow up! Do this with more than one doctor if you don’t get any results. (Of course, if the gatekeeper is particularly evil, you might want to skip that doctor and try another.)

I also found out that my state med school has area coordinators that you can contact for assistance in finding local physicians who will let you shadow. This isn’t something published on their website anywhere, so you might have to call someone at your state med school to find out. Here, they cover the entire state, so it may not matter if you live 200 miles away from the state med school.

What I have noticed is that many people (self included) like to sit on their rear ends searching the Internet all day when the best results are usually obtained by contacting people in person. Just ask any decent sales guy!

Also, if your school has a faculty pre-med advisor they sometimes keep a file of names. Sometimes these advisors may seem discouraging at first, but if you find that take it with a grain of salt. Medical schools often keep in touch with these folks, so they can be a good source of information.

Are you volunteering anywhere? If you aren’t and you are going to be, I am sure that volunteer work at a hospital would be a great “in” for shadowing.

Alij- i think that is what i might have to do. I should be more aggressive. I see many private practices up and down the road near my house so i’ll just have to start taking notes at the red lights. Cold calls might just do. I just feel so intrusive doing so though… ;( but i agree, i should probably stop sitting on my butt all day, scouring the internet…crossing my fingers…

Viceroy -I havent gotten in touch with the faculty pre-med advisor yet. Im not sure what their agenda is over the summer… If i contact her, Im hoping she’ll help me regardless of my organization affiliation.

I am still looking into volunteering. Not going well so far…Ironically, I seem to have too many options and i have yet to secure one volunteer avenue. So far, I am considering two local hospitals and my local red cross. As of now, its all a matter of scheduling. Hopefully I can network enough to try and establish contact with a physician who is willing to accommodate shadowers. I just seem to be getting negative responses.

Thanks for all your advice : )

Hi Putnam,

If you don’t have any clinical type of experience, getting a volunteer position in the hospital is the best bet. It might pan out that you can also get a shadowing experience out of it, since you will be at the mothership where you can find most doctors ;).

If you are looking at an osteopathic school as an option for medical school, you might want to consider contacting one of these schools…sometimes they have a list of alumni willing to talk with perspective medical students.

Sometimes I wonder if you ask a doctor directly if you can shadow them, it might cause them to close up…it’s got to be a little self-restricting for them to have to set up a particular schedule that they can have you follow them. However, if maybe you contact one asking to sit down with them for a little bit to just talk and ask them their advice about pursuing medicine. Maybe just over a cup of coffee (i.e. 15 minutes)…this will give them an idea of who you are and then maybe a longer period of time can be pursued.

Even if it works out that shadowing may not work with that particular doctor due to their schedule, maybe they would be more willing to refer you to a doctor-friend who would be willing to have a perspective medical student to shadow.

When I am hopefully in the position to do so, I will make the time to have students shadow me, but I would want to meet them briefly first to see if it is a good fit.

This may be a backdoor way of doing this…but do you know anyone in the medical field in any type of clinical career (nurse, respiratory therapist, whatever)? Maybe you can ask them to help you out to just set up a quick chat with a doctor and then proceed from there.

Fortunately, with working in the hospital I’ve had options of talking with MDs/DOs a little more…however, it has only been recently that I’ve delved into talking with one of them a little more intently. I was pretty excited when I found out that one of the neonatalogists I work with is actually a DO, since I need a DO letter for my top choice medical. I was lucky because the conversation was actually opened by the doc. She noted the organic chem book on my desk, and from there I was able to find out more about her route towards medicine…btw is is a nontrad whichis also great! Now that she knows that I am pursuing medicine, I can work on letting her know me better, and hopefully, I can get a LOR from her before I apply for med school.

It’s about building relationships, and unfortuantely that takes time. Since relationships require a sense of trust, many doctors aren’t just going to want anyone shadowing them, they will want to know that they can trust the student to be respectful to them and their patients, not get in the way and just be pleasant and enthusiastic.


well two things happened yesterday - a physician that i had emailed got back to me and said that he was happy to have me shadow him, which is great! He offered to let me shadow him in the clinic and OR and seemed enthusiastic about it. But an hour later I get a call in regard to a possible full time job. A job would be nice too haha but then how on earth am I suppose to fit in shadowing after 5pm or on weekends? ? If its not one thing, its something else… The funny thing is, I wanted to do my shadowing before school starts when I’d have “the time” .but lets see what happens with this job first before I jump to conclusions…

Since I’ve relocated I dont know anyone around here in the healthcare field. I went to college here but never took advantage of volunteer/shadowing… I still can ask my old colleagues who have gotten into med school, but Im not sure how appropriate that is.

But you’re absolutely right, I suppose it does come down to networking and being in the right environment to make the right contacts. If it doesnt work out with that shadowing opportunity because of a job, I’ll have to figure out another plan of attack.

Shadowing at night or on weekends? That doesnt seem feasible…

I’m in the same boat as you as far as having a F/T job. I’ve been here a while, so I CAN take vacation, but another option I was considering was to ask an EM doc to shadow on his weekend shift. I already volunteer at the ED, so it should work out. . .I haven’t asked yet because my summer schedule is too hectic.

Ali, good point, and actually I’ve wanted to look into volunteering in the ED as well. I should see what is available in my area…

For the first time (and probably last time haa) Im glad I didnt go on that vacation this summer because now I can work on shadowing and volunteering if all goes well, and I wont have to worry about it conflicting with my study time come September.

As far as the job goes, the position that I interviewed for apparently has alternating weekends so that frees up two rotating weekdays, which would work out just fine and I could shadow the Dr on my weekdays off. crosses fingers

But as with most things encounterd on this journey, it is a balancing act and making the right choices that will best benefit you.

I’ll need to expand my search with the volunteering though. One of the bigger, more popular hospitals (the one that med school bound students flock to it seems) is “full.” Another one is a childrens hopsital and the type of opporunities they have for volunteers there arent really what I had in mind. I just want to get the most out of it that I possibly can. I cant be too picky, I know, but I also dont want to be stuck with clerical duties and answering phones. I’ll know by Friday whether or not I got this job, then It will give me a solid idea of how much time I can allocate toward volunteering and shadowing.