I’ve been given a great opportunity to shadow/do research with a local neurology practice. Since this is my first time really shadowing and researching, how should I best prepare for this? I don’t want to start out completely clueless, but since I am only a pre-med I know there is little that I can contribute…
Congrats on getting to shadow and see up close & personal the practice of medicine!
I just had a similar opportunity with an ENT Surgeon. I was able to shadow her during her clinicals and then I was able to shadow her during surgery a few days later. I had a few of the same questions you did and here’s what I found out, and maybe my experience wasn’t typical, but here’s how it turned out for me:
Everyone bent over backwards (nurses, techs, doctors) to help show me the ropes and make me feel comfortable. Interestingly enough, just knowing that I was a pre-med student gave me some respect amongst the staff and they really treated me like one of them. I felt very shy, a little intimidated, but after a few hours of clinicals, I felt pretty good. My doc got me an up close view of everything she was doing and I got to assist on a couple of procedures, which was super neato! On surgery day, again, I couldn’t believe how accomidating everyone was that was in the surgical theater, the nurses, the anesthesiologist, the CRNA, the ORTs. Everyone took time out in the procedure to explain what/why they were doing. Seriously, I think just the fact that you are showing enough interest to volunteer your time to come in and shadow the doctor will go a long way to getting you some seriously cool experiences.
My advice for you would be this:
- Meet with with the doc before clinicals begin to find out when you are allowed to ask questions and have him/her give you a brief overview of how their clinicals work (about how long, typical questions, common cases, etc??)
- Ask as many questions as pop into your head at the appropriate time. After we were done seeing a patient, I’d ask her why a certain symptom manifests itself in younger people and not older people, just as an example. I’d ask a lot about the pharmaceutical treatments compared to surgical alternatives.
- Don’t be afraid to do whatever your doc lets you do. If he/she tells you to get up close to the patient and look, DO IT! That’s what you’re there for. If he/she tells you to feel something, snap on some gloves and feel it! Make the most of your time.
- Talk to the nurses a little too, get their perspective on this particular branch of medicine. They are an invaluable encyclopedia of knowledge of how that branch of medicine really runs. Even my doc admitted that.
- Stay quiet & respectful in front of the patients. Obviously, you’re there as an observer and as such, you need to maintain the decorum of a person representing the medical profession to the patient. That means you dress nicely, keep yourself nicely groomed, and act professional. You need to be a reflection of the physician who is allowing you to shadow him/her and be involved with the care of his/her patients.
It is quite a privilege to be allowed to come into the lives of a doctors patients via shadowing, it sure opened my eyes and gave me even more of a drive to dive into this fall term with the utmost effort!
Thanks for the advice Justin I read your intro post, and noticed that you are at USF. I’ve just moved down to Sarasota a few weeks ago, and am finishing up the last of my classes at USF starting in a week (yikes!). I would love to find out more from you about how to form connections with physicians in the area, and also how the USF premed community operates. Feel free to PM me.