Shadowing docs?

How many of you have done doctor shadowing? How long do med schools want to see you shadow? Was it hard to find a doc to shadow?

I’ve been wondering all these things. I have at least 1 more year of classes (finishing my masters and might need to re-take bio), but if I need lots of hours of shadowing I should get started on that. Any of you done shadowing yet and have some advice/info?

I shadowed a DO for a year. I don’t know how long medical schools want to see you shadow but I am actually looking for another doctor to shadow because it gives you an inside look so that makes it worth more than it’s weight in gold to me!

How often did you shadow? Once a week or more often? I work full time so I’m trying to figure out how I’ll fit in the shadowing.

It’s not the quantity but the quality of a shadowing experience. What are your goals for shadowing? What will you want to be able to talk about as a result of your experience? What does it do for your application?

I have always seen shadowing as a way to get a better sense of what docs do - so that you get beyond the starry-eyed “wow it would be so cool to be a doctor” and discover the day to day joys and headaches of the job. (You see that most patient encounters aren’t like the ones in House, M.D., for example, or ER. Most of medicine is not nearly as dramatic.) I think that if you’re a healthy person who hasn’t had to deal with the mess that is U.S. health care in any significant way, one important goal of shadowing a doc should be to see just how unwieldy the system is and how difficult it is to work through both for patients and their physicians.

Finally, shadowing is your chance to do “reality testing” of this idea that you have, that you’d like to be a physician. It’s your chance to mentally put yourself in the place of the doctor you’re following, and see if that feels like the place you want to be.

What it is NOT: a chance to figure out what kind of doctor you’d like to be. You may have some ideas about this, but they will be challenged, stretched, and often changed in medical school. For shadowing purposes, any doctor in the community - meaning, most likely a primary care physician seeing patients in an office - will give you a realistic notion of what doctoring means.

If you have had significant health care experience (e.g. I had been a nurse) then I don’t see why you would need to shadow at all. When I was evaluating applications for my school’s AdCom as a student member, I just wanted to know that people had some idea of what they were in for if they went into medicine. Shadowing does not have to be a big part of your application, but your application needs to demonstrate in some way that you know what medicine’s about - hard, demanding, without the “glory” or social prestige that used to be part of it - and you want to do it anyway.

So for the OP, evaluate your own application - what does it have in it already? If you have done volunteer work in a health care setting where you worked directly with physicians, you wouldn’t need to shadow. If you come from a health care background where you got a pretty good feel for what doctoring is all about, you don’t need to shadow. If, on the other hand, you are sure you want to do this but you don’t know that much about the day to day life of a doctor, then shadowing is a good way to get that feel. It doesn’t need to be a year-long experience, but should be long enough to substantially enrich your understanding of what’s involved, so that you can discuss knowledgeably the rewards and perils of being a doctor with someone else (e.g. your interview).


I was told that shadowing was an “understood” must-have on your ap…(unless of course you have had some other glipmse into what you’re really signing yourself up for). My friend did not do it, and said that in every one of her interviews they asked how she had any idea what it was like to be a MD.

I’ve also heard that it’s sufficient to do it for a short while - the idea is to really understand what the life of a physician is like. That said, many people do it for significantly longer than this!

I have heard of people getting admitted with minimum to no amounts of shadowing. Other successful applicants had tons of shadowing hours.

Based upon that, it’s not really the hours that you do but the quality imo. Any experience that allows you to put something meaningful on your personal statement and be able to talk somewhat intelligently about healthcare during an interview is a plus. Having said, when trying to pick out an EC, volunteer, or shadowing experience, I would try and have that in mind.