Etiquette for Shadowing as a Med Student

Discussion in 'Allopathic' started by CyberMaxx, 09.28.14.

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  1. CyberMaxx

    CyberMaxx Doing math in pen 7+ Year Member

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    So I did a search for this topic but kept on coming up with Pre-Allo threads.

    Do any of you guys have any insights on what the proper channels are for setting up shadowing as a medical student? As a pre-med I often just tried to get shadowing experiences shotgun style - sending out a ton of emails and seeing who bit. However, I feel like as a med student I should take a different approach. Should I try to go through someone in the med school or through someone in the department I'm interested in (administrative assistant or the head of the department)? Or should I just email the people who I'm interested in shadowing directly?

    My situation is that there is a particular field that I'm interested in and would like to get more exposure to early on. I want to shadow early because there are a couple of faculty members in the department that I would be interested in doing research with over the summer and I want to build those relationships and get my name in before my M1 class as a whole starts looking for summer research positions (my school does a workshop for us on getting summer research gigs in early November). Advice appreciated! :)
     
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  3. Winged Scapula

    Winged Scapula Cougariffic! Staff Member Lifetime Donor SDN Chief Administrator 10+ Year Member

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    Medical students don't shadow.

    If you're interested in doing research in a specific field and your school doesn't have a formal process for setting that up, then contact the specific faculty member and discuss the options with them.
     
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  4. DermViser

    DermViser 5+ Year Member

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    I believe he's talking about in the first 2 years.
     
  5. CyberMaxx

    CyberMaxx Doing math in pen 7+ Year Member

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    Yep. I'm interested in doing research in the department but I'd like to get more exposure to it first before I commit to a research project. Specifically, I want to get more exposure to CT surgery. I've spent the past 4 years doing basic science cardiac research and know I'm really interested in continuing in cardiovascular research as a broad topic. I also spent a good amount of time shadowing cardiologists and general surgeons in undergrad and know that I really enjoyed my experiences with the general surgeons - much more so than with the cardiologists. So intellectually CT surgery interests me a lot, but I want to get firsthand experience with it before I commit to a summer project.

    Is shadowing in your first year to get more exposure to non-traditional fields something that is really not done?
     
  6. Winged Scapula

    Winged Scapula Cougariffic! Staff Member Lifetime Donor SDN Chief Administrator 10+ Year Member

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    I understand that. Shadowing is for premeds.

    There's no reason he cannot approach a medical faculty member to talk about doing research with them. You don't need to be doing any shadowing.

    Doing research in the CT surgery department is not a career killer if you decide to do something else.

    Given the extensive experience shadowing as a premed I fail to see how doing more as a medical student in the preclinical years is going to give you any more information.
     
    Last edited: 09.28.14
  7. DermViser

    DermViser 5+ Year Member

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    Yes, it's definitely done and many schools encourage it.
    http://medadmissions.wustl.edu/FactsandResources/Documents/WUDisO.pdf
    Students can explore St. Louis, join extracurriculars, participate in research, shadow physicians, and still have some personal time.
     
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  8. SouthernSurgeon

    SouthernSurgeon Lifetime Donor 7+ Year Member

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    I don't agree.

    My school actually had a formal shadowing program for M1s and M2s, with a dedicated list of willing/available faculty across specialties.

    Everyone shadowed at least 5-6 different specialties.

    In residency, we have M1s and M2s show up all the time with our more popular/student friendly faculty.
     
  9. DermViser

    DermViser 5+ Year Member

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    You don't think if one is going to commit to a research project in a specialty, that they should shadow the specialty to figure out if the specialty is something they even want to do or is a good fit for the person?
     
  10. Winged Scapula

    Winged Scapula Cougariffic! Staff Member Lifetime Donor SDN Chief Administrator 10+ Year Member

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    I think it's a waste of time; he already knows he has an interest in CT surgery and he's acting as if "committing to "research in that department is somehow akin to a legal document or that it forces them into that field.

    If he's planning on applying to integrated CT surgery residencies and those are pretty competitive and getting started on the research now is not a bad idea. If he ends up doing something else then at least he has the research experience for other fields.

    I'm not saying you shouldn't shadow, I just think it's unnecessary.
     
  11. DermViser

    DermViser 5+ Year Member

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    Bc the shadowing done as a premed is a joke. Many do it to rack up notches in a gun belt so you can fill out your AMCAS application to say that you've shadowed and "experienced" medicine and you do it with anyone who will allow you to which aren't many people. The purpose is quite different than when you've made it and are already in medical school and the purpose is more to find out the nooks and crannies of a specialty and thus you can be a lot more discerning.
     
  12. Winged Scapula

    Winged Scapula Cougariffic! Staff Member Lifetime Donor SDN Chief Administrator 10+ Year Member

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    In general yes. But he says he spent several years doing cardiac research and shadowing surgeons so I'm not sure how the additional time will make a difference.

    My point is is that I think it's unnecessary in his case because he already knows a lot about the field. It sounded like to me he wanted to use the shadowing as an in to get the jump on research projects over his classmates during the summertime.

    My impression is that he's more interested in using it to make connections rather than learning about the field which is why said just get involved in the department.
     
  13. Winged Scapula

    Winged Scapula Cougariffic! Staff Member Lifetime Donor SDN Chief Administrator 10+ Year Member

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    That's absolutely true for most pre medical students but this student knew he was interested in the heart and pursued experiences in that field including surgery.

    I see nothing wrong with shadowing for those who aren't sure or have no defined interests. But if you read the first post you'll see he basically says I want to get to know these CT surgeons so they'll choose me when it comes time to sign up for summer research projects. He's doing it for the connections which is a completely different matter.
     
  14. DermViser

    DermViser 5+ Year Member

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    Yeah, except that interest is more theoretical. "Ooh! I like hearts! I like doing stuff with my hands! I want save a life! Why not combine all 3? I must like Cardiothoracic Surgery!" The same people who have an "interest" in the brain, nerves, and neuroscience and think that must mean they're meant to be Neurosurgeons.

    While yes, it's not a legal document, it's really bad form to commit to a research project or a small manuscript (case reports, etc.) and then not see it to completion.
     
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  15. DermViser

    DermViser 5+ Year Member

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    Oh I didn't see that in his 2nd post. Only read the first one. If it's not to confirm an interest, but to get a jump start on being selected for summer research, than shadowing is really a waste of time.
     
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  16. Winged Scapula

    Winged Scapula Cougariffic! Staff Member Lifetime Donor SDN Chief Administrator 10+ Year Member

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    True for the vast majority of pre-meds and basic science medical students. The OP knows he's interested in cardiac disease and has shadowed both surgeons and cardiologists, preferring his experience with the former, so I'd say he's a thousand miles ahead of the rest.

    Absolutely correct. Perhaps I am just misinterpreting the OPs concerns but I read it as he thought that if he committed to CTS research and ended up finding something else (down the line) that he wanted to do, that the CTS research would somehow hurt him.
     
  17. Ismet

    Ismet PGY-fun SDN Administrator 5+ Year Member

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    As someone with a degree in neuroscience, I can't tell you how many people automatically expect me to want to do neurology or neurosurg. Noooo way. The brain is super interesting to learn about, but the clinical practice doesn't excite me.
     
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  18. Winged Scapula

    Winged Scapula Cougariffic! Staff Member Lifetime Donor SDN Chief Administrator 10+ Year Member

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    That's how it came off to me - its both, but he already knows he has the interest so the shadowing is really just "face time". I'd venture if he has the experience doing the research he'd be the logical choice for the projects anyway, *without* the shadowing.

    Bottom line is that medical students in the pre-clinical years do shadow (but I refer to it as informal rotations because I'm going to have them do a lot more than a pre-med) but I'm not sure of the benefit to the OP.
     
  19. operaman

    operaman 5+ Year Member

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    I did lots of shadowing during M1/M2, especially over break times if I was still in town and nothing else was going on. Great way to get some exposure to fields you may not have a chance to rotate through during M3. I don't know about official channels; I just contacted attendings directly and never had a problem. I think the only etiquette is be polite and professional. Anyone who is attending at an academic center fully expects students to contact them to do research, to spend time in the OR, clinic, whatever.

    Do it because you want to, because you think it might be interesting and fun. It's actually nice to spend time in the hospital with cool people while you're not being graded and nobody expects you to know anything yet.
     
  20. DermViser

    DermViser 5+ Year Member

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    I felt the same way as you do. Absolutely loved learning neuroscience (and neuroanatomy) during the course from a theoretical perspective, but couldn't use a reflex hammer to save my life (or at least unless the patient is ok with getting hit with a hammer several times >3 to elicit a reflex).
    [​IMG]
     

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  21. DermViser

    DermViser 5+ Year Member

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    Yeah, if the purpose is truly just "face time", then you're just being annoying. Clinical face time is for audition electives. Eventually people will get tired of seeing your face. lol. Much different if the scenario is to truly figure out if the daily happenings of a specialty fit in well with your personality.
     
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  22. Psai

    Psai ヽ(´ー`)ノ Account on Hold 2+ Year Member

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    Man in M3 I feel like half the time I'm just shadowing
    Holding retractors for 3 hours and maybe if I can get through all that time without doing anything stupid they will let me close fascia and skin
     
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  23. CyberMaxx

    CyberMaxx Doing math in pen 7+ Year Member

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    Thanks for your thoughts everyone, especially @DermViser and @Winged Scapula! Absolutely my main reason for wanting to spend some time with the CT surgeons is to see if its for me (i.e. day to day, types of surgery, types of people). I did spend time with general surgeons and tremendously enjoyed it but my thought was that this wasn't enough to say for sure that I want to do CT (though perhaps it is, I don't know anything yet ;)). Certainly don't want to be an annoying M1 but I was also thinking it might be a good chance to meet some of the faculty if it turns out I do enjoy it. Mostly I just want to experience something I'm interested in pursuing as a career.
     
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  24. Winged Scapula

    Winged Scapula Cougariffic! Staff Member Lifetime Donor SDN Chief Administrator 10+ Year Member

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    That's what 3rd and 4th year clinical rotations are for as you will get a much more significantly involved experience. IMHO shadowing for the medical student is typically a way to make connections in competitive fields to get face time.

    Of course not, even your clinical rotations may not be enough

    So I'm not clear on your reasons for the shadowing. If its to meet people to determine whether or not you want to pursue that specialty, I understand but still would venture that its not necessary especially for a specialty that you could spend some time on during your 3rd year surgical core. As an MS-1, you aren't going to get near the exposure you would as a 3rd or 4th year. But that being said, I wouldn't discourage it, I just wonder about your motives it sounds as if you're attempting to use shadowing as a way to decide about a potential future career. I would say shadowing can be helpful with that but mostly for people with no or little experience in a certain field; you've already had plenty of experience.

    If your motivation is to "get a leg up" on your classmates for some (presumed) coveted MS-1 research project, then I would say just do the research and not waste your time shadowing in a field you already know you're interested in. That experience will also get you face time with the surgeons and possibly into the OR.

    Bottom line: if your school does not have a formal process for contacting faculty, then directly contact them or their assistant yourself and set up a meeting to discuss your interests and goals. You can decide with them what would be best, whether that means shadowing, doing research, and/or waiting until 3rd year and setting up a clinical rotation.
     
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  25. SouthernSurgeon

    SouthernSurgeon Lifetime Donor 7+ Year Member

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    "Neurology is what you do while you're waiting for the MRI results"

    That's what one of my ED attendings said about the field.

    Obviously flippant, but there's a grain of truth there...
     
  26. MedWonk

    MedWonk 高飛車 5+ Year Member

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    I agree and disagree. Students at my school (myself included) do shadow in the first two years and we regularly get google doc signup sheets to shadow physicians across a bunch of different specialties. I do agree in that a lot of times (especially early on as an MS1) shadowing doesn't really give me much information. So, I pretty much don't shadow anymore unless it's in a specialty I'm really unlikely to get any exposure to in the clinical years (I shadowed a rad onc last week, for example).
     
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  27. Winged Scapula

    Winged Scapula Cougariffic! Staff Member Lifetime Donor SDN Chief Administrator 10+ Year Member

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    I think shadowing or trying to get early clinical exposure as a medical student is valuable for those who need face time with attending's in very competitive specialties or for those fields that you might not get a chance to experience during school, like radiation oncology, the surgical subspecialties, dermatology etc.

    In those cases, as you know, it can be a good idea.
     
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  28. DermViser

    DermViser 5+ Year Member

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    Well aren't you a smart cookie. No gunner is safe from you.
     
  29. alamo4

    alamo4 Dudeist 2+ Year Member

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    Does CT surgery at your school have its own grand rounds or weekly conference. Usually these are open to med students, and are often either early in the morning or at lunch, so won't conflict with other things.

    You can start to get a feel for different personalities, see the residents and fellows give talks, etc.

    You'll get a better picture of who to ask rather than just cold emailing.

    Do you have a preceptor? They might be a conduit for setting up shadowing with their buddy.
     
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  30. Successful BM

    Successful BM 2+ Year Member

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    Well, I should echo what others have said: my school is big on shadowing the first two years (first semester of first year especially). Waste of time? Maybe. Does it need to be done? No. Depending on the clinician, it might help you get more H&P practice. If the clinician is cool with it, they know you're a med student and they might be willing to let you drop whatever skills you have in clinic. But if you want to get a good look at what a surgeon's life is like, you're probably better off reading these forums than shadowing. From what I hear, at my school, they don't let you into the OR as a first year med student. So all you really do is follow the surgeon around in clinic. It may be different at other schools.
     
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  31. mvenus929

    mvenus929 10+ Year Member

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    I did some shadowing as an M1 and M2, but it was mostly for my benefit--to remind myself of the clinical aspect of medicine that I was interested in when I started med school when I was bogged down with all the book learning of the pre-clerkship years.
     
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  32. evilbooyaa

    evilbooyaa 5+ Year Member

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    If you truly aren't sure whether you want to do CT Surg or not, then shadowing a CT surg makes sense. It may be difficult to do the hours that are expected while still doing your required pre-clinical work, but you may be able to spend a slow day or two with them.

    If you know you want to do CT surg, then there's no point to shadowing, just do research instead.
     

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