what is shadowing

what is shadowing? hows it done? is it that important for post bac students?

It is when you follow a physician around during their day to see what all is involved in being a doctor on a day to day basis.

I shadowed a pediatric oncologist as he visited out patients at the hospital. I did it for 2 months every other week for 4 hours per day.

I will say, I just did it for my own knowledge and didn’t include it on my application.

I had enough ECs (extracurriculars) listed so I felt I didn’t need to include it.

So is it important for a post-grad to have, yes it can be, but if you have enough things you may not need it.

But it can help you, so if you can make the time, then do it.

My friend shadowed a DO each week for 3 months and then the DO wrote her letter of recommendation (LOR).

You can do it for a few days or a few weeks or a few months. It lets schools know that you are seriously looking into what it takes to be a doctor.

I would suggest you read Stacy’s posts about shadowing Natalie (a doctor here on OPM). She did a GREAT job of writing about her experience.

Here is the link to her posts.








When you apply to medical school, you need to be able to speak knowledgeably about the field of medicine and what is entailed to pursue it and live in it. Shadowing is just one way to accomplish that. You could also gain medical perspectives by working in a related field (e.g. I was a nurse; Dave Kelley was a respiratory therapist; several OPMs were EMTs). You can even have some idea of what’s involved in medicine by extensive “patient” experience (though this can be touchy) - e.g. if you were the primary care provider for an aging grandparent who accompanied him/her on numerous doctors’ visits and hospital trips, you’d have gained some invaluable insights into the way the medical field works. (It’s touchy because you need to convey a somewhat dispassionate view of a personal experience to be convincing.)
Bottom line: shadowing is just one of several ways to help you know enough about medicine to decide if you want to do it.

Thanks for the responses, folks…
I was going to start taking classes this fall to go to med school to get into psychiatry. Before that, I got a certificate in art therapy, and to get that, I had to have 300hrs+ of supervised clinical experience. My hours gained were from two hospital settings and one research setting at a university… but it was in art therapy, not psychiatry…
do you think it will help my chances? Is there such a thing as shadowing a psychiatrist? Are there such psychiatrists who will let you do that? I just have not seen any such thing…
scratches head

oh yeah… PostCallMary is that miss “Are you a GOD??” from ghostbusters? heehee!

Yup, that’s Gozer and PCM is my alter-ego. When I hang out on OPM post-call I worry that what I say won’t make sense later on… and I do generally feel more than a little cranky.
Anyway, the art therapy experience is certainly relevant in terms of knowing what it is like to provide care to people. I don’t know how relevant it’ll be for giving you insights into the profession of medicine but it surely helped you see the reality of providing health care. Basically adcoms want to be sure that your view of medicine is reality-based and not derived from an idealistic notion that you’ll just love the job because you are Helping People. (this is horribly over-simplified but I’m short on words this morning, maybe I should’ve signed in as PCM again)
As for shadowing a psychiatrist - you’re right to recognize that it’s not likely you could do that in most psych settings. You might be able to attend group meetings led by a psychiatrist - addiction treatment programs, for example. (groups will be led by many different sorts of psych professionals, and observing such work might help you with your dilemma about which profession most appeals to you)
I did a psych rotation at a state mental hospital which had all sorts of classes and activities for the patients, including art therapy. I know volunteer activities were carefully restricted at this facility but I wonder if your past experience could be an entree into a psych setting where you could eventually talk to some of the psych staff professionals? Just a thought.
I am not sure that sleep has improved my reasoning capacities much, so I will shut up now.