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Advice for Shadowing Doctors


Full Member
May 8, 2020
  1. Pre-Medical
Hi, I'm a rising sophomore on a pre-med path and I was wondering if anyone has any advice for shadowing doctors. With the pandemic taking place I was going to focus on shadowing as well as volunteer work in my area. It would be my first time shadowing doctors and I don't exactly know what I'm doing or what particularly medical schools look for when you shadow. I am aware they like about 40+ hours of shadowing for each doctor you choose, but does it have to be some amazing doctor well known in his/her field? Do they prefer to see you shadow a few in an extensive period of time, or a decent number for the same period of time but say I complete the 40 hours in 2 weeks rather than 2 months. Any advice would be amazing or things you wish you knew when you first began shadowing.
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Full Member
2+ Year Member
Mar 2, 2018
  1. Pre-Medical
Why would it not be a good look?

It's an insensitive request, imo, to those who are affected strongly by both social distancing and PPE concerns. Healthcare workers are pretty much the top of the list in terms of "groups of people who care about social distancing." Plenty of healthcare facilities don't have enough PPE for themselves, let alone to give to a shadowing student. Many healthcare workers have turned to doing as much as they can via telemedicine to ensure social distancing parameters. Both parties can have adequate PPE and transmit disease.
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Full Member
2+ Year Member
Jun 2, 2018
Asking to shadow during the pandemic will not be a good look
While I generally agree with this, I would base this more on:

1.) your location (if you’re in NYC, maybe avoid it. If you’re in a rural or low impacted area, you’re probably fine)

2.) your connection to the physician. If you know the physician, it’s probably fine to ask. Just make sure you throw in a sentence stating that you’d be happy to shadow later when circumstances are more ideal. Even if you don’t have a connection, it’s probably fine if you’re in a low impacted area and ask respectfully.

3.) the specialty. Attempting to shadow specialities dealing with COVID patients will probably be difficult and not worth your time because you probably won’t be able to. Having an extra person raises the chances of the infection spreading and it reduces the amount of PPE available.

Either way, you mostly want to get some primary care shadowing in (family med, internal med, pediatrics, general practitioner). It doesn’t matter if they’re well known but obviously you want a good doctor so you have a nice experience. IMO it’s probably better to shadow 2-3 doctors for 20-30 hours each rather than 10 doctors or 5-6 hours each, but I don’t think it matters as long as you learn what it’s like to practice medicine.

Also, I don’t know exactly what your timeline is but remember, many physicians are practicing different right now (lots of telemedicine rather than in-person visits) so it may not be an ideal time for shadowing because you’ll be seeing pandemic medicine rather than “normal” medicine. But then again, we might be doing a lot more telemedicine in the future even if we’re not in a pandemic.
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New Member
May 27, 2020
  1. Non-Student
It’s obviously not the best time to shadow with all the hectic schedules and social distancing due to COVID-19. But yes if you’re acquainted with the physician you want to shadow, you might get a chance to. If you don’t know any physician or healthcare professional you can talk to, there are a couple of online portals that will help you connect with them. I am sharing a few: healthcareshadowing.com, globalpremeds.com. There are a bunch more too but these are the only 2 I remember right now.

Chris P. Bacon

Membership Revoked
Jun 23, 2020
  1. Medical Student (Accepted)
You won't be shadowing anybody in the near future. Medical schools are going to be understanding of this and advise you on alternatives. We're in the middle of a global pandemic; everybody (well most of the population) understands that safety is first and that includes medical schools. Just take a break.


Full Member
Jul 18, 2013
  1. Medical Student
Okay thank you all so much! Just I'm not 100% sure what to do in the meanwhile as there's not much I can really do at this time, especially since it may take a year or two for everything to go back to normal or calm down.

You can try finding a healthcare related job (not sure the effect Covid has on these positions so double check) like being an ER tech, Scribe, medical assistant job. This'll knock out two birds with one stone and give you exposure to the field as well as a chance to see if you enjoy working in healthcare.

As others have said though medical schools will probably be understanding of the current situation and it won't be that big of a deal. You're also a sophomore so you have plenty of buffer time to just wait out the pandemic and then starting up ECs in your later years.

Spend more time doing other things. Research, hobbies, volunteering, and relaxing!
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Top MCAT/USMLE/COMLEX Tutors Answer Your Questions
2+ Year Member
Apr 25, 2019
  1. Medical Student
  2. Resident [Any Field]
  3. Attending Physician
Depending where you are and your connections, you could possibly get a few hours in. If you are near a major city or are planning on cold calling, I think you will be out of luck. Clinics or telemedicine will be more friendly than hospitals during this time period.

As others have said, schools are going to be forgiving so don't sweat it too hard.

David D, MD - USMLE and MCAT Tutor
Med School Tutors
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Full Member
Apr 3, 2020
  1. Pre-Medical
I was able to find a doctor to shadow and I’m currently shadowing the doc right now - 3 days a week for 5 hours each day. IMO cold calling won’t work in the current state you’ll have to try to get something through connections. If you have any friends that are upperclassmen med students, ask if they know any doctors that maybe they rotated with that would be open to shadowing or if you have family that are doctors, you can try pulling connections that way.
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Full Member
Feb 28, 2020
  1. Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
Wherever you shadow, I would highly recommend keeping a daily journal of your patient experiences, the issues you came across, the thoughts/questions you had, etc. It’ll come in handy when you write your apps
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the evil queen of numbers
15+ Year Member
Mar 7, 2005
  1. Academic Administration
I want to put in a plug for your college's alumni office. They are always looking for ways to engage alumni and if there are alumni practicing medicine in your hometown area or wherever you are living now, you may get some help from the alumni office in identifying them and help you make a connection. Networking in this way can lead to shadowing opportunities.

In the end, 50-100 hours of shadowing is sufficent. Ideally, at least some of that time is spent with a primary care provider (general pediatrician, internist, family medicine physician). You can use a connection with one doctor, let's say a surgeon, to make connections to the internists and family medicine physicians who refer patients for surgery. Although it is not required, it may be interesting to shadow the same doc a few months apart with the hope of seeing some patients more than once. Pediatrics might be the easiest place to do this as the newborns are there every month or two during the first 6 months.

As we get back to "new normal" you might get some shadowing in exchange for some volunteering in the office. Keep a record of the hours and don't double count.
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