So, I just called my primary care physician and inquired about shadowing. Didn’t work out so well. He said absolutely not and that I’d have to be a med student already. If that is going to be the general consensus, how the hell am I supposed to shadow anyone?!

This is very concerning to me, because I don’t want others to have a leg up on me for something as foolish as following a doctor(s) around for a few days.

What should I do? How does this work if you can’t just ask? Help!! lol

First, calm down. You have just started this process and have plenty of time to get some shadowing in.

Shadowing is becoming increasingly difficult for pre-meds due to privacy regulations/concerns. Many physicians have stopped letting people shadow. Others will only let people shadow who have been through HIPAA training somewhere. It’s also possible that your physician doesn’t feel comfortable with you shadowing him because of the doctor/patient relationship he already has with you.

I don’t remember what you said your plans were for volunteering/getting some health care experience. If you are planning on volunteering in a medical setting, you might be able to rustle up some shadowing after some time for people to get to know you. Also, many universities have pre-med societies - one of the things they often help pre-med students with is making contacts for shadowing.

Don’t sweat it yet. If you are within months of applying and still haven’t been able to find anyone to shadow with, THEN you can worry about it.


Like Emergency said, calm down…and look around. Try to talk to some other doctors. Maybe someone you know well has a doctor in a family and you can find someone to shadow through them?

When I asked my family doctor about shadowing, he was all about that! He even gave me daily assingnments at the end of the day. I had to look up few of the diseases we saw on a given day and write a short note on them. It was a really valuable experience. And his patients didn’t mind opening in front of him with me in a room.

You never know! It’s possible that your doc had a bad experience with someone shadowing him. But don’t give up! It’s not a rule. And I’m sure that you’ll find someone to shadow. In general I think DO doctors are more willing to have people follow them, so maybe try to look up one.

I also shadow an anesthesiologist for a day. My husband helped coaching his friend hockey team. One kid’s dad was an anesthesiologist. We didn’t even know the guy too well. Mike wasn’t the team’s regular coach. During one of the games he heard the guy’s pager beeping and he talked to him after the game. He told him that his wife is preparing to apply to med school and would like do some shadowing, and asked where should I look for an opportunity. He gave Mike his card and I called him…

So don’t worry and look around! I’m sure there are docs out there willing to have people shadow them.


Hey, thanks everyone. I appreciate the encouragement. I’m a bit high strung, I guess…hehe. When I want something, I tend to worry every little detail to the bone. However, as ulcer-expediting as this may be, it is an invaluable tool to get things done…:slight_smile:

Now that you mention, I don’t think my doctor was too hot about the whole shadowing thing, OR the volunteering thing. He was one of the first people I called when I made the decision because I thought he might have some really useful info. Instead, he told me to not bother volunteering at all or shadow, either. He said take easy classes and concentrate solely on your grades. Don’t worry about the other stuff, just your GPA.

I thought that it was kinf of weird when he said that, but I just let it go. I guess he’s just that type. He said he barely made it into med school. I guess I’ll just keep looking around. My wife’s OB/GYN is a really good guy, and whenever I’ve been there, he’s always been very helpful and willing to answer any of my questions (sometimes with WAY more detail then I needed…). I can tru and talk to him.

I’m also starting a volunteer stint at the ER for one of the teaching hospitals for the medical school I have my eye on. I guess if I do well and make some good acquaintances, I might get some help on that end, as well.

Honestly, I haven’t been able to find any doctor to shadow, and I’ve asked over half a dozen and had most of them agree. Even if you get a doctor to agree to let you shadow him/her, a lot of the time they do not follow up words with actions. Granted, doctors are busy as hell, but I’m of the mind that you don’t throw around your word like it’s a dog’s chewtoy. If you can find a doctor to shadow, great, but you may have to wait until you’re at a 4-year that has health advising, and hopefully, a list of doctors who are willing to let pre-meds from that school shadow them.

I plan to do this myself…I’m not going to worry about it until I transfer to UCSB.

Docs tend to be more open to shadowing when they have gotten to know you. Sort of like hanging out with the mountain gorillas in Africa; they trust you after a while but not at first.

The docs who let me shadow were personal friends, or people I had gotten to know well enough that they sincerely wanted to help me get through medical school and join the field. It’s sort of like any other profession, actually. No one is obligated to let you shadow them; it’s a hassle for them sometimes. On the other hand, shadowing is a very common training modality in medicine so doctors are completely used to the idea even if they don’t like it.

I would suggest spreading the net out, contact some docs and explain what your background is and what your career goals are, get them interested in your situation, and they will volunteer to let you shadow them. The PCP you contacted obviously had reasons not to but that’s just one person; put it behind you and just network a lot until you find someone. Volunteering or working at a hospital offers lots of natural ways to observe procedures as well; I would look into that if you haven’t already.

Another thing you can try is contacting any medical schools you are contemplating applying to and ask them for the names of graduates from their school that are practicing in your area and who might be willing to let you shadow.

BUT, like the others have already said. . . slow down. You have lots of time and once you get started meeting doctors while volunteering at the ER, you might just open a door to some shadowing experience.

Like others have said, you’ve got plenty of time. Focus on academics for now, get a little further into the process, network here and on other pre-med websites and get more familiar with the “language” and demeanor in the medical world. It’s unfortunately easy to ask the wrong way or stick your foot in it without having any idea that you did anything wrong… take a little more time to get a sense of how to go about this; you’ve got plenty of time.

And I gotta tell you, I know many folks on here have had the good fortune to get shadowing gigs with their own doctors, but if I had one of my patients ask me if s/he could shadow me, I’d be extremely hesitant. I might consider having her shadow one of my partners, but the roles of physician-mentor to a student, and physician to a patient, are pretty different and I don’t know that I’d want to do the hard work of keeping them separate for an individual.

As someone else said, medicine’s a bit of a club and like most clubs, it’s very welcoming to folks who clearly belong and tends to be a little hostile to folks who haven’t yet demonstrated that they belong.

So how do you demonstrate that you belong? Get into the academics of the pursuit, and again, get enough into it that you can talk knowledgeably about the process. Right now you’ve got lots of enthusiasm, but you’re only just figuring out all the steps, and the enthusiasm is overshadowing the knowledge. Don’t get me wrong, the enthusiasm is great AND essential, but you gotta back it up with a little more on the ol’ resume. THEN you will most certainly be welcomed and surely will be able to find some shadowing opportunities.


PS I edited the title of the thread because I can feel my blood pressure go up when I see all-caps, sorry! This is probably an egregious abuse of moderator’s privilege but I’m doing it anyway

  • Mary Renard Said:
PS I edited the title of the thread because I can feel my blood pressure go up when I see all-caps, sorry! This is probably an egregious abuse of moderator's privilege but I'm doing it anyway

I can't help but crack up at this because my blood pressure goes up too when I see people use all caps, lol. At least I'm not alone.

Sorry about the all caps thing. Didn’t realize it would be an issue for anybody, lol. I was attempting to emphasize my concern, in the hopes of maximizing responses. Or, I figured big letters would get your attention. :slight_smile:

I really appreciate the feedback, though. You have echoed my wife’s sentiments: 1 foot in front of the other.

I have a nasty habit of looking at step 12 when I’m still on step 3. I don’t know why (eager, impatient, ambitious…), but it can be helpful and hurtful all at once. Guess I"ll have to curb it.

  • Mary Renard Said:

PS I edited the title of the thread because I can feel my blood pressure go up when I see all-caps, sorry! This is probably an egregious abuse of moderator's privilege but I'm doing it anyway

133t HaXxOr!!!

I have had problems finding docs to shadow as well… I think I might have found one, still in final process of negotiation.

It has been my experience that docs in a casual & social setting when prompted about shadowing are like, “Of course! Yeah.” But when you follow up with them 2 days later they pretend they never met you.

Mediosaurus, I would agree with what other people have said that you should focus on academics for now, since (based on your last few threads) it seems you’re getting things started now.

I was actually a little bit surprised that your physician would say something to the tune of you needing to be a med school student for shadowing… that just makes no sense at all.

Also, if you volunteer at a hospital or clinic I’m sure someone there can refer you to a doc willing to do be shadowed.

Yeah. I’ve pretty much decided to focus on academics and volunteering for now. It actually really makes me feel better, like I’ve taken a weight off my shoulders, because I’m not freaking out about getting everything done at once.

I will say this, though: looking at all the people who have been rejected and all the talk about how competitive it is is a terrifying prospect. I’m glad that I’m at the beginning. Now, I’m more acutely aware of how my actions right now will affect my near and distant future.