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Physician Shadowing awkward??...

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by alec10983, Mar 10, 2012.

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  1. alec10983

    alec10983 2+ Year Member

    Dec 2, 2011
    Hey SDN,

    I'm currently a sophomore and need to start doing more EC's. I have done some surgical shadowing and have scheduled with a family friend physician this summer to shadow. I'm a little worried on the awkwardness of it, just like standing in the patient room watching them do simple check-ups and all that fun stuff. I know to dress nice but still...

    So I was wondering if people could just talk about what their first physician shadowing experiences were like so I can feel a little more comfortable come my time to do it? Lol.

    Thanks so much!!
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  3. stoutt

    stoutt 5+ Year Member

    May 26, 2010
    It's not awkward, they know the deal. Just be pleasant, smile and ask some intelligent questions when your not around a patient.
  4. Deekle

    Deekle 5+ Year Member

    Dec 23, 2011
    Washington, IL
    Most doctors will ask the patiens something along the lines of: "I have a future medical student shadowing me today, is it ok if they come in?" 99 out of 100 patients (in my experience) will say it's fine. From then on, your job is to pay attention, not to look pretty. Pay attention to the questions the doctor asks, how he examines the patient etc. As has been already mentioned, ask some intelligent questions when you're not with the patient. There are lots of acronyms. Don't be afraid to ask what they mean and what they are used for. If you do these things, you'll learn a lot.
  5. 235788

    235788 God Complex 2+ Year Member

    Dec 5, 2008
    The Slab
    its only awkward if you make it awkward.
  6. TheMightySmiter

    TheMightySmiter 7+ Year Member

    Oct 18, 2009
    I was just about to say exactly this. Smile, stand a few feet back, and either make a bit of small talk or say nothing but "thank you" and "have a nice day".
  7. sliceofbread136

    sliceofbread136 5+ Year Member

    Nov 5, 2011
    What's awkward is when you're a dude and you're shadowing during the vaginal exams...
  8. Ventric

    Ventric 7+ Year Member

    Mar 17, 2008
    There were in your shoes once, they know that feel.
  9. alec10983

    alec10983 2+ Year Member

    Dec 2, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2012
  10. alec10983

    alec10983 2+ Year Member

    Dec 2, 2011
    LOL yea i probably won't be doing that haha.

    But thanks for all the quick responses. I'm not an awkward person by any means, just have never been in this kind of situation. Its a little different than shadowing a surgeon when the patient is passed out lol. I'm actually pretty excited to do this, think it will be interesting seeing all the similar standard procedures and varied results and people..
  11. 235788

    235788 God Complex 2+ Year Member

    Dec 5, 2008
    The Slab

    sooo much laughter

    Surgery is pretty cool. Be sure to eat something big in the morning - you'll be standing all day. The only thing that still makes me cringe is the smell of melting flesh from the cauterizer
  12. Omppu27

    Omppu27 El Tiburon 5+ Year Member

    Aug 12, 2011
    Pawnee, Indiana
    i shadowed an urgent care ped. and it was fun for the first day and the first day only. It's the same stuff over and over and over... Hopefully you'll see some interesting stuff. Nonetheless, it is still a good experience since you are experiencing (sorta) the daily life of a doctor.

    Also, look up some typical procedures that your doc might be doing so that you have background info and can stem some questions off of what you already know.

    Good luck! :thumbup:
  13. Omppu27

    Omppu27 El Tiburon 5+ Year Member

    Aug 12, 2011
    Pawnee, Indiana
    hahahahah i can't even take you seriously with that avatar
  14. 235788

    235788 God Complex 2+ Year Member

    Dec 5, 2008
    The Slab

    Its a keeper for son.
  15. alec10983

    alec10983 2+ Year Member

    Dec 2, 2011
    Yea i can imagine it gets boring at times, 100 hours of it....i'm excited tho
  16. cincincyreds

    cincincyreds 5+ Year Member

    May 9, 2010
    There is nothing wrong with the shadowing. At least you can get an idea of what happens in medicine. I did it, and didn't find it awkard. The most annoying thing was when another person who was also shadowing fainted and I had to take her to the er after she banged her head.
  17. ReInventor

    ReInventor Burnt toast? 5+ Year Member

    Mar 9, 2010
    Hah, what made her faint?
  18. Decis


    Mar 5, 2012
    I did it and i thought it was awkward even though i tried my hardest not to make it awkward. At one point i got yelled at because i went too close to the patient in the operating room. At the end of it, i was glad that I did it because it was a good experience but it was still very awkward for me especially because i was shadowing a doctor who was very busy, and the setting was just generally high-octane especially in the operating room so i was freaked out that i would do something wrong every time. My thought is that if you think that it would be awkward before hand, then it probably will be but just try not to think about it too much.
  19. Jpatel2018

    Jpatel2018 5+ Year Member

    Mar 2, 2012
    hSDN Alumni
    Talking about awkward, the doc that I shadowed was a general surgeon so he got cases from Ventral hernias to Breast cancer. I stepped out during the physical examination so it wasn't that awkward. Many patients were cool about having me in and some even asked me questions and complimented me for going into medicine!:) It was an excellent opportunity and a great educational experience!:)
  20. armybound

    armybound future urologist. Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Jan 1, 2007
    Even as a medical student I find myself standing in the corner of the room while the attending interviews and examines a patient. It's not awkward for anyone involved, so don't make it awkward.

    I mean don't stare, but don't look away like you're weirded out either. Don't speak unless someone asks you to, don't stand so close that you're in the way but be in a position where you can actually see what's going on. You can always ask the doctor where s/he feels it would be best for you to stand. One thing you learn in medicine is if you're unsure, ask.
  21. Buttermilk

    Buttermilk 2+ Year Member

    Aug 15, 2011
    I've shadowed multiple physicians, and each has slightly different expectations for me. However, there are probably some general guidelines.
    -In the exam room, don't speak unless spoken to.
    -Sometimes a patient won't know exactly what your role is and will switch back and forth between eye contact with you and the doctor. In those situations, I sort of smile and look at the doctor as a nonverbal cue to let the patient know that this appointment isn't about me at all.
    -Ask questions outside of the exam room. Sometimes a doctor will be happy to answer all sorts of questions, sometimes they won't. Just follow the doctor's cue.
    -Show the physician that you're excited to be there and grateful for the opportunity.
  22. dsoz

    dsoz Accepted OHSU C/O 2017 5+ Year Member

    Apr 8, 2011
    My first shadow experience, the first patient, had elevated PSA. The doc told the guy to drop pants and put elbows on the table. Then the doc said to me "hey, dsoz, come over here and look at these hemorrhoids, they are great..." I was like, sure.

    The second time I went to that doc, his first exam was a procedure to remove about 15 flat warts from around the shaft of a guy's junk. Doc asked me to help him out by holding said junk. First over on that side, then over to the other side, then up, then down... Interesting experience.

    My wife made a joke about the next shadow experience, then I would watch a pelvic exam... The next time I went in, the doc said "My next patient is a pelvic exam, why don't you wait out here in the hall to avoid a situation..." LOL.

    Only weird if you make it weird.

  23. Cinclus

    Cinclus Es un pájaro. Moderator Emeritus 5+ Year Member

    Feb 2, 2011
    Behind the waterfall
    The electrocautery smell is pretty bad. It actually kept me from getting too hungry from the hours of standing.
  24. abumblingbee

    abumblingbee bumbling along 5+ Year Member

    Sep 1, 2010
    A tip that came in handy for me: practice your poker face!

    I certainly needed it when shadowing in the ER
  25. Veritas86


    Mar 13, 2012
    Paris. TX
    This. The more shadowing I do, the more I learn this is the case. Most of the time the patient only acknowledges you for a sec, and after that, its all about paying attention and learning, even between patients.
  26. verynice

    verynice 5+ Year Member

    Feb 25, 2012
    Last summer I shadowed my family physician. The same physician who I got my physicals from for high school athletics and I didn't feel any awkwardness. The only times that it was awkward was when people requested that I not observe.. I always felt so unwanted :(

  27. Morsetlis

    Morsetlis I wish I were a dentist 7+ Year Member

    Jan 22, 2010
    The "Garden" State
    I actually like the smell of burnt flesh... ;)

    Also: shadowing surgery is the best.
  28. 235788

    235788 God Complex 2+ Year Member

    Dec 5, 2008
    The Slab

    sicko!! :D
  29. catzzz88

    catzzz88 Purrrrrr!?!11?? 5+ Year Member

    Mar 28, 2011
    Los Angeles
    For my first shadowing experience, no one told me what to do. Several funny things ensued.

    1) I wore jeans. God help me, how embarrassing.
    2) I carried on entire conversations with one patient and even exchanged phone numbers because we went to the same school. Not allowed. Oops.
    3) I prescribed OTC medication to a little girl because her mom said she got car-sick so easily. I had the same problem as a child and told the mother to get her kid children's dramamine. She and the kid were so excited about it and said they would go get it immediately. The doctor I shadowed told me that this was probably inappropriate.

    I am pretty gregarious and sometimes stick out like a sore thumb in the "brown-nosing" and "professional" setting of a hospital. I think it will make me a better doctor, but I certainly will not be asking for an LOR from that physician, haha. :)

    Enjoy your first shadowing experience!

  30. 235788

    235788 God Complex 2+ Year Member

    Dec 5, 2008
    The Slab

    n006!! :laugh:

    we live and learn. I can only imagine. Was this a family doc?
  31. 2ndCareerMD

    2ndCareerMD 5+ Year Member

    Jun 21, 2010
    I did the majority of my shadowing at my OB-GYN office. I would stand off to one side and moved down behind the doctor when the pelvic exam began. There were some instances when I felt the patient was not comfortable, so then I stood by their shoulder.

    It is probably all in my head, but I am going to try to get my annual appointment with a provider I didn't shadow.
  32. NeuralNetwork

    NeuralNetwork Pass the BDNF 2+ Year Member

    May 19, 2011
    New York
    I did my ambulatory care shadowing in the clinic I volunteered at, and it wasn't awkward in the least because it was already my responsibility to take patients in and do their on days I wanted to come in to solely shadow a specialty, I just took their vitals and stayed in the room.

    I did more shadowing in the hospital, going on rounds with the attending and some medical students. Nothing awkward here since the patient expects other people aside from the doctor to be there, so that is always another option if you find that being in a small room with a patient and doctor isn't exactly to your liking.

    I can see how imagining yourself just standing there is an awkward thought, but when you're actually there, you will be trying to understand what the patient's complaints are and see how the doctor comes to a diagnosis, if any. You'll be fine after your first couple times.
  33. fletchffletch

    fletchffletch 2+ Year Member

    Oct 3, 2011
    Not trying to be argumentative, but if they are a fair bit older, than probably not. Speaking with physicians who have been practicing for 30+ years, they didn't do many of the pre-medical activities that are considered standard now, and some, who are well removed from the whole processed are quite surprised actually.
  34. MartletMD

    MartletMD O Canada...

    Apr 22, 2011
    Montreal, QC

    Side note for the OP and anyone doing surgical shadowing that involves OR time: one of the nurses who worked for the surgeon I shadowed recommended that I wear leggings/stockings/hose under the scrubs for the OR day.

    Best decision I made that week. It is f*cking cold in there after a few hours, and even thin layers help.
  35. alec10983

    alec10983 2+ Year Member

    Dec 2, 2011
    Just thought I'd update on my first experiences lol. The physician i shadowed happened to be a really cool guy and made it so comfortable for me when going into the patient rooms. No crazy things happened but was extremely interesting nonetheless. Had some nice conversations with patients too! Gonna continue doing more this summer. Almost had to see an old lady's breasts but he said i could wait outside...phew. Walked around with the stethoscope on my neck, felt like a BO$$
  36. 911 Turbo

    911 Turbo med student Gold Donor 7+ Year Member

    Jul 24, 2010
    hSDN Member
    hSDN Alumni
    Yeah, BO$$ until someone mistakes you for a doctor in an emergency situation.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2012
  37. Doctor Strange

    Doctor Strange Sorcerer Supreme Lifetime Donor 5+ Year Member

    This. Get past that initial awkwardness and try to get something out of the experience.
  38. Junior22

    Junior22 Joel Goodsen MD 5+ Year Member

    Apr 12, 2011
    How bout napalm? I've heard that has a welcoming smell, particularly in the morning hours.

    OP: I want to first start off by giving the advice that I've given to all the new pre-meds that I talk to in person. Only do something if you are going to get something out of it, not just shadow to shadow. Thus, and this is only my opinion, I would try to vary your shadowing experiences as much as possible. Don't follow around one GP for 200+ hours, there's only so much you can learn at your level, before it becomes a bit redundant. Medical schools want to know you are dedicated to becoming a physician and the more it seems that you're actively trying to learn about medicine, the better it looks on one's resume. Plus, the more you are exposed to, the better idea of what you'd like to do.

    It seems as though most applicants' first shadowing experience was with a family physician or doctor that they were close to, and I was no different. I shadowed my Mother's Orthopedic surgeon a couple times: Khakis, button down, belt, nice shoes, just make sure you're presentable. He was an awesome guy, would have let me shadow him any day I wanted, but it was important that I only shadowed him as much as would be beneficial to me: no sense just standing around doing the same thing day after day. I was able to see a couple days of surgery and a couple days when he was in his office doing followups (something that I didn't realize until then, how much office work and followups that Surgeons do post-surgery). If I had any questions I would wait till there was a free moment to ask, never interrupt, although he would have been cool with it regardless. Some of the docs may talk through the procedures a bit more for your benefit, which will often times give the patient the impression that you are a medical student or resident (this happens very often). **Any doctor who asks a teenage pre-me some obscure question and expects an accurate answer, is just being a dick, don't forget that. Also, don't be afraid to say I don't know, but I definitely would like to find out. I could look it up when I go home. Even make a joke; well shoot, it looks like I'm gonna have a long list of things to google when I go home. If that doesn't make the doctor chuckle or stroke his ego a bit on how much he knows, then he or she is just a dick

    Anyways, I could have shadowed him more, but I chose to search out an additional physician so that I could see a different aspect of medicine. One of the summer's I had off, I sent out a lot of personal letters and emails asking physicians if they would grant me the opportunity to shadow them. I started off with one's that I knew and the ones that I didn't, I told them something along the lines of how well they were respected in the community etc. etc. Worse that could happen? They say no or don't respond and you lose a few minutes of your time and some postage. I ended up shadowing an ER physician, Pulmonary doc, Pediatrician, Cardiologist, neuro-surgeon and a couple GPs. Between that summer and the next, I might not have had as many cumulative hours shadowing as some others, but I felt my hours were better spent. Hope this all helps and good like my man.
  39. kpcrew

    kpcrew Banned Banned 2+ Year Member

    Apr 20, 2010
    i didn't think it was so bad. and there is some time in between procedures so you could have went and gotten a bite to eat.
  40. alec10983

    alec10983 2+ Year Member

    Dec 2, 2011
    Thanks for the response! And i definitely understand where your coming from. I don't intend on shadowing this GP too much more. I have about 10 hours right now and plan to do it a couple more times, definitely not close to ~200 lol, i can already tell that would be extremely repetitive and unneeded. But thankfully, there has been some nice changes between patients when i've gone. First day was nothing special, just standard checkups and blood tests, which were interesting to me, it being first time really seeing all that. But today, i got to really see some different cases like an arthritis patient, amputation patient, and a type of colon exam (forgot the name of it, he checked to see if there was blood in the stool, i think he previously had colon cancer, forgot) so that was an old man naked in front of me which i have never seen before :eek: but didn't mind it too much.

    And i do plan on shadowing many other doctors. Such as a DO Physician, a surgeon or two, and hopefully some other nice specialties. The GP i'm shadowing now is just like yours, i could come every day if i wanted but he says as well, that it would be very repetitive and he is going to refer me to others very soon, so I'm pumped for that!

    During all the procedures i observed, he made it really comfortable and was basically talking to me half the time during it, explaining in good detail of what types of diseases the patient has, numerous medications they take and what interacts with what, and much more. So i really enjoyed that and taking blood pressure too lol, i dunno why but that seems cool to me :D
  41. mechengmed


    Jun 21, 2012
    What is a good way to find a doctor who will let you shadow him? And is it better to do so in a hospital scene or an office?

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