Shadowing a Doc

Have any of you old premeds had an opportunity to shadow a doctor? If so, what did you do to secure the doc. Do we as experienced adults really need to shadow a doctor to have a strong application? I spend 2 1/2 years at Texas Children’s Hospital while my little girl fought a loosing battle against cancer. I’ve had plenty of exposure to the field and know what I want. Do you think that would be good enough? Until my wife finishes nursing school I am working fulltime and taking 6 - 12 hours at school. Any shadowing will have to be done at the last minute. Any advice?

I think medicine is like any field - internships, volunteering and going out of your way to show that you have learned about the field are of extreme value in your application. Given that there are probably so many other factors working against you as an older applicant, I think there is even more reason to shadow. Many DO programs actually require it. Also, keep in mind that all of the people who are competing with you for a spot are doing it.

That’s good a point. Staying competitive is essential. The organization that I work for owns over 50 hospitals. Perhaps I can do some shadowing as part of our mentorship program. I will have to see what I can do.


How do you find shadowing opportunities?


It sounds simple, but it really works. Ask everyone you can think of who is either in the health care profession or knows someone who is. Ask those people if they know someone else … build upon the connections you make. Another idea is to contact your alumni association. I got a summer research lab job through an alumni of my undergrad university, and a shadowing opportunity (time in the OR with an anesthesiologist!) to boot.

Sometimes people will turn you down, and you have to be ready for that. But you have to put yourself out there. People will rarely, if ever, offer this kind of thing to you. But if you ask, you might just get what you want.

My thoughts. Hope that helps!

First, let me say what I should have said in my previous post – I am very sorry for the loss of your little daughter. I don’t even have children, so I have no idea what that must have been like for you. I did recently lose another family member, though, and while they were not nearly as close as a child (clearly), it was very traumatic. I just wanted to acknowledge that. You are a very strong person for wanting to go into this field after such an experience.

And I do agree with Megsmed that yes, shadowing is very important. While your experiences in the hospital did provide you with a great deal of exposure to the medical field, you were in a very different frame of mind then – you were trying to save your daughter, not learn about medicine. So yes, I would say shadowing is key.

I’m a tad ADD and somehow missed your reference to your personal experience in a hospital as well. I am so sorry about your daughter. But what a good thing that you are turning to medicine. I really wish you the best!

You mention that any shadowing would have to be left to last minute. It might not be ideal, but it seems to me that you would have a window between finishing your courses, and taking the MCAT / filling out your application(s). However, that does not leave time to develop a relationship with the doctor and (hopefully) secure a letter of recommendation to accompany your application.

I also think the experience is valuable. I’m a nurse and nurse-practitioner - you wouldn’t think that shadowing a doc would teach me much. However, seeing what goes on inside and outside of the room (pt room in hospital or exam room) is valuable, particularly as you are picturing yourself in that role.

I’m sorry for you and your wife’s loss of your daughter. I hope extending healing help to others is healing for yourself as well (and your wife as well, as it seems she is on a similar path). I can’t know what it has been like for you all, but having lost my oldest son myself, I know the effort involved in moving forward. I wish you every success, and the energy to get on with it every day.


How much time should I spend shadowing. I have spoken to my PCP about becoming a doctor and he has offered me encouragement. Perhaps he will let me shadow him. The hospital down the street is looking for adult volunteers, might that provide me with an opportunity to shadow an E.M. doc or other specialist? I do have a few years before I will complete my science prereq, as I did not take any of them get my B.S. or MBA. I will certainly treat this part of the process with greater seriousness. Thanks for all of you advice and kind condolences.

You should shadow till you feel you have a good grasp and realistic understanding of the role of a physician and the physician you are shadowing is familiar and comfortable enough with you to write a good recommendation. Basically, once you understand why nearly one-half of American physicians regret their decision going into medicine, then you’ve probably done enough shadowing.

I’ll bet your PCP will let you shadow. The volunteering at the hospital may give you an opportunity to get to know some ER docs and maybe go from there re shadowing.

Couldn’t have said it better than the previous poster re how much shadowing. I did only three days, but split into half days (so six times) with the D.O. I shadowed, but I had a different starting place. Some of my classmates did quite a bit more. (once a week for several months).


How did you go about contacting a doctor to shadow? I will speak with my PCP tomorow during an appointment, but would like to shadow a few specialist. Do I simply start cold calling doctors? I plan to ask my PCP what he did tomorow. He is younger than me (I am 38) and only finished his residency about 5 years ago.

I was in a formal post-bacc premed program, so their medical director had a list of doctors of various specialties who had agreed to being contacted by students regarding shadowing. The director also would try to find an opportunity if a particular specialty that a student was interested in was not represented.

If there is an academic medical center near you, that might be a source for physicians to shadow. A formal written request is a professional way to approach someone cold - you might briefly explain why you are particulary interested in observing their practice (or their specialty). Med schools have an “office of clinical education” that arranges rotations for their students - I don’t suppose it would hurt to contact that office and see if they make connections for premed students to shadow.

Gonnif - any other ideas?


Here’s another place to look:

and click on the link “Find a mentor.”

I found an osteopathic doctor to shadow via the same site that is linked in the previous post. The mentor I was able to connect with ended up giving me a fantastic opportunity that was more than simply shadowing. It’s a great resource to explore.

I really wish that we had a post-bacc premed program in Houston. With our top notch medical center and 8 or 9 medical schools one would think that Texas would have an abundance of programs. The AAMC website mentions a program at the University of North Texas, but it is actually a MS in biomedical science designed for those who did poorly on the MCAT or where not accepted to medical school and want to strengthen their candidacy. Oh well, I will have to keep banging away at UofH. It will take a couple of years before I am ready to start preparing for the MCAT. At age 38 I would like a more accelerated premed program.

Thank you very much for this wonderful link. I requested mentorship from an ENT and EM doctor in my area. I hope to start shadowing soon. This is a great sight and everyone has been so helpful, unlike certain others forums where the members spend all of their time bashing each other. I goes our age shows here

i initially called my cardiologist’s office to make an appt and then asked if they had any volunteer opps. i was put thru to the office mgr and convinced her to let me shadow some nuclear medicine for a couple days. i think me volunteering at the hospital helped calm her concerns. it seemed like they had never had anyone ask to volunteer before.

after a couple days of shadowing nuclear cardiology, i talked with her in her office and worked out a deal to go in for a couple hours every friday and shadow the NP’s and PA’s while they consult with patients. so you may have to work at it but just be diligent.