smtse4

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Aug 25, 2008
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Hey guys, I was looking for some advice on shadowing. I have never done it before, but I start next week. I'd greatly appreciate it if someone could answer the following questions:

  • What do I need to bring? Is a notebook/pen necessary?
  • Is it appropriate to ask questions? I don't want to inundate the doc with questions, but I feel that not asking any questions would be a waste of the doc's time and my time.
  • How much am I expected to understand what is going on? I have some hospital volunteering experience + bio major, but I doubt these help a whole lot in the hospital/clinical setting.
  • How many times do you shadow one doctor before moving on to a different doctor/department?
  • Do you shadow the doc for the whole work day? A few hours? I'm suppose to start at 7 AM, but I have no idea when I'm leaving... lol.
Thanks for helping me out!
 

Evergrey

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Dec 27, 2008
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Hey guys, I was looking for some advice on shadowing. I have never done it before, but I start next week. I'd greatly appreciate it if someone could answer the following questions:

  • What do I need to bring? Is a notebook/pen necessary?
  • Is it appropriate to ask questions? I don't want to inundate the doc with questions, but I feel that not asking any questions would be a waste of the doc's time and my time.
  • How much am I expected to understand what is going on? I have some hospital volunteering experience + bio major, but I doubt these help a whole lot in the hospital/clinical setting.
  • How many times do you shadow one doctor before moving on to a different doctor/department?
  • Do you shadow the doc for the whole work day? A few hours? I'm suppose to start at 7 AM, but I have no idea when I'm leaving... lol.
Thanks for helping me out!
I'm on a short work break so I'll try to answer as much as I can.

The doctor will expect you to have ZERO understanding because honestly, 99.9% of the stuff is way over our heads until we start learning about it in medical school. In fact, according to the cardiologist I shadowed a few times, 99% of it is over anybody's head until they finish their first year of residency. So the expectations are pretty low.

Notebook and pen aren't necessary -- in fact they might get in the way. I guess the way I approach shadowing is to learn what the physician does and challenge your understanding of the profession. In terms of how much you'll learn, 99% of what is going on will be way over your head, so it will be hard to discern what to take notes on. I feel that physicians prefer a shadow who is gently inquisitive but doesn't barrage them with questions all the time. Some take the initiative and share things with you as they're going along, and then others may set a specific time to ask questions. I think it's definitely more appropriate to let them take the lead in determining how much questioning/teaching there should be.
 
May 27, 2009
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Hey guys, I was looking for some advice on shadowing. I have never done it before, but I start next week. I'd greatly appreciate it if someone could answer the following questions:

  • What do I need to bring? Is a notebook/pen necessary?


  • For the first doctor, I wrote in a small notebook really generic stuff about the patient like "old white female, back pain" and any personal observations of mine. The second doctor I followed told me not to write anything down and just to listen. :thumbup: Third doctor, I finally realized that you really don't need to bring anything extra, just your brain and a good memory, to jot stuff down later if you want.

    Is it appropriate to ask questions? I don't want to inundate the doc with questions, but I feel that not asking any questions would be a waste of the doc's time and my time.
    You're there to learn so definitely ask questions! Just find the right time to do it, as in not while they're making the first incision, or when the patient is crying their eyes out to the doc in clinic.

    How much am I expected to understand what is going on? I have some hospital volunteering experience + bio major, but I doubt these help a whole lot in the hospital/clinical setting.
    Not much, although I think it helps if you know some physiology so everything doesn't sound completely foreign to you. Just keep your ears open and ask when necessary. You'll start to pick up fancy terms and common patients as your shadowing goes on.

    How many times do you shadow one doctor before moving on to a different doctor/department?
    As long as you want, although everyone is going to have a different opinion on this. I say if you like the doctor and are interested in the specialty, there's no reason to follow someone else. If you just want to get a feel for a doctor's life in general, switch it up.

    Do you shadow the doc for the whole work day? A few hours? I'm suppose to start at 7 AM, but I have no idea when I'm leaving... lol.
    The problem I've found with staying for a very long time is eating meals. Sometimes there'll be free food for you, other times they'll have you follow around someone else while they take their lunch break. I don't know about you, but if you're getting there at 7, I'd be tired and hungry by noon. I think 3-4 hours at a time is good, unless you'll be watching a long surgery. Try coming in a different times of the day and on different days of the week.

    Good luck and have fun! :)
 

gymtanlaundry

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Jan 22, 2010
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Don't bring anything. Just dress nice, and for the love of God wear decent shoes, not sneakers. This one kid I know wore dress pants with sneakers and looked like a tard. I personally wore a shirt/tie/slacks/shoes when shadowing, or scrubs. I wouldn't ask questions unless the doc tells you to. One I shadowed flat-out said, "you're here to be seen not heard, you understand?" :eek: Leave whenever you want. As long as he can put up with you or you can put up with him.
 

Evergrey

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Dec 27, 2008
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Don't bring anything. Just dress nice, and for the love of God wear decent shoes, not sneakers. This one kid I know wore dress pants with sneakers and looked like a tard. I personally wore a shirt/tie/slacks/shoes when shadowing, or scrubs. I wouldn't ask questions unless the doc tells you to. One I shadowed flat-out said, "you're here to be seen not heard, you understand?" :eek: Leave whenever you want. As long as he can put up with you or you can put up with him.
Yeah I meant to say that but I had to get back to work :( Business casual attire for sure, maybe a tie, unless you're gonna be scrubbing into surgery.

That doc sounds like a jerk though... if they didn't want someone shadowing them, they shouldn't've agreed to the shadowing :p
 

akinetopsia

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Feb 17, 2008
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  • What do I need to bring? Is a notebook/pen necessary?
No, notebook/pen is usually not necessary as other people have said. You may want to write any interesting patients you saw or things you learned when you get home, and definitely keep track of the days & hours you shadow as well - I did this when I shadowed.

  • Is it appropriate to ask questions? I don't want to inundate the doc with questions, but I feel that not asking any questions would be a waste of the doc's time and my time.
Follow the doc's lead. If they ask if you have questions, by all means. Don't do it in front of a patient. Wait until you're one-on-one or in the doc's office before you ask questions, and be polite about it. Believe it or not, sometimes you may not have questions, because the doc does a good job of explaining what they are doing while they are doing it before you see the patient, or during the patient encounter. I think it's a good thing to ask questions - it definitely shows interest in their work and an intellectual curiosity to know more and understand what is going on.

  • How much am I expected to understand what is going on? I have some hospital volunteering experience + bio major, but I doubt these help a whole lot in the hospital/clinical setting.
As other posters have said, it really depends on the doc you shadow. If they know what classes you've taken, they may take for granted you know a certain thing, or they may assume you know nothing and try to explain what they are doing in a way you can understand, or oversimplify things. Alternatively, you may impress them with what you know, but remember that the shadowing isn't about what you know or how smart you are, and most likely if you try to get into a contest with the doc about who knows more, you are going to lose. Stay humble, but don't play dumb, if you understand something, it's okay to ask further questions for clarification or to reinforce your understanding if the opportunity arises.

  • How many times do you shadow one doctor before moving on to a different doctor/department?
That's really up to you. One doc I shadowed I was there for two weeks and wish I could have been there longer, since I saw a lot of patients who had led interesting lives, had great stories to tell, and fascinating pathophysiology going on. Another doc, I shadowed for two days, 8 hours a day, and felt like I got a lot out of the experience as well, and it was in a different specialty from the first one. It's really up to the doc how much they will allow you to shadow and how much time you have. Maybe someone else will have a general rule of thumb that is better. I'd say to just do as much as you want - if you find one doc you feel like you learn a lot from, try to get in as much time as you can, before finding a different doc/specialty to check out.

  • Do you shadow the doc for the whole work day? A few hours? I'm suppose to start at 7 AM, but I have no idea when I'm leaving... lol.
I was kind of in this situation when I first shadowed. It's somewhat important to set up expectations with the doc when you initially contact them. If you really want "a day in the life" then you'll stay the entire time the doc stays, whether it is in the office, in the OR, in the clinic, etc., until they are done with their paperwork, phone calls and dictations. It's really up to you though. You may see the last patient and the doc says, "Ok, you can go home now, I just have to do some dictations, that's pretty boring." Ask if you can stay, you have no idea how to do a dictation anyway, even though you'll learn later on, but it wouldn't hurt to get exposure to it now and even ask any more questions you have about the day. Don't be in a rush to get home.. that may not send the right message you want to send.

Lastly, thank the doctor and any other medical staff or administrative staff, as appropriate, for giving you the opportunity to shadow. You are getting a pretty good benefit out of the experience, be thankful for it.
 

smtse4

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Hey guys, this is great stuff! Thanks a lot for the help. I feel a little less clueless and anxious now :)
 

nickmx50

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Dec 2, 2009
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I've been shadowing a pediatrician, and here's my advice.

#1 Dress to impress

#2 Bring a notepad to write down your observations/experiences during the time between consultations. While your in a consult just observe and take it all in. I found that a lot of things I saw really were important learning experiences. You need not understand the terminology, but how the physician approaches/handles different situations seems helpful.

#3 Definitely ask questions. If someone allowed you to shadow them it would be unusual if they didn't want to help you learn.

Fortunately for me the pediatrician has been explaining to me all his diagnosis and reasoning behind his methods in doing a history and exam. Hopefully your experience will be favorable too. Good luck.