Shadowing Etiquette?

Hi All,

I’m pretty new to the premed game, as I’ve recently decided to jump in and follow the path to medicine whole heartedly. I just landed a shadowing gig with an orthopedic surgeon (so exciting to me!!!), and I could use some pointers on shadowing etiquette because I’ve never shadowed before. I’ve been called “home trained” and complimented on my manners before, but I just don’t want to go in blind. What are do’s? What are don’ts (aside from obvious things), what do I wear? Should I buy a lab coat? If I like it, how do go about asking for more shadowing opportunities, etc. Any input would be much appreciated!

I would wear something business casual-ish and then change as required into something they provide. if they want you to wear something specific, they should tell you ahead of time.

Remember that you are there to learn through observation. You aren’t going to learn how to be a doctor or do procedures. More importantly, observe what the doctor does, how s/he interacts with patients and staff, what the lifestyle is like, what the workload seems to be, etc. Seeing procedures is the cool part. Your biggest goal should be to use the experience to help you decide if this path is what you actually want to do, or if it too far outside of your interests and expectations to pursue.

Everything else you do will be at the mercy of the doc and staff. Ask questions as the situation allows and react to situations based on your comfort level. Be a metaphorical sponge that only absorbs, and try not to be disappointed if you don’t get to do much outside of watching.

At the end, if you have a good relationship, ask for future opportunities to shadow either the same doc or others that s/he can recommend.

Have fun!

If you’re going to be observing surgeries, make sure you wear comfortable shoes, as you’ll likely be standing 100% of the time. They will have you change into scrubs and likely give you a surgical mask & hat to wear as well. The first time I shadowed I wore business casual and regretted it because my shoes were not ideal for standing for extended periods. After that I just wore jeans, polo shirt, and tennis shoes.

Make sure that you’re not getting in the way of the surgeons, nurses, etc. There can be a lot of movement in an OR. They’ll probably tell you where to stand. If you can’t see what’s going on ask if it’s okay to get a little closer for a better view rather than just moving up. Don’t touch anything! Keeping a sterile field is really important and it’s really easy to break if you’re not paying attention…and will definitely leave a bad impression if they have to re-drape or anything like that.

Aside from that, ask questions you genuinely want the answers to, and generally try to absorb as much as you can from the experience.