too early to shadow?


Full Member
10+ Year Member
Jan 4, 2008
  1. Medical Student
    Hey all! I am currently a pre-med student and was about to begin physician shadowing, when my mom heard from a physician that it was too early for me to begin physician shadowing. Basically, that I should do more science first so I have better understanding of the terminology, etc. I can definitely see the point here, but I keep getting different and conflicting advice..

    However, I've heard from most people--advisors included--that the earlier you start, the better. I'm just wondering if it would do me any good, especially since I still have a lot of science classes left to do.

    I'm seventeen and will begin my sophomore year of college in fall (though have more than ave. in credits). So far, the only science classes I've taken are:

    --Bio 189/Intro to Bio
    --Bio 196/Principles Modern Bio I
    --Bio 197/Principles Modern Bio II
    --Psych 101/Intro Psychology (not technically a science, but figured I'd include it since I plan on shadowing/going into psychiatry)

    I haven't taken any college Chem yet, but will be taking Chem 121/General Chem this summer along with Bio 348/Anatomy. However, I have taken two years of Chem, incl. AP Chem in high school.

    Also, I haven't done any volunteer work or extracurriculars yet (though I realize the importance of)...

    Basically, my question is: Should I wait to shadow in the fall until I've finished more chemistry (and taken anatomy), and focus on volunteer work until then, OR start shadowing now and do volunteer work on the side?? When did you guys start shadowing?? When would you recommend to start shadowing?

    I wonder if its better to have a consistent mix throughout the undergrad years of simultaneously shadowing and doing volunteer work, or volunteer towards the first years and focus on shadowing towards junior/sr. years..

    Advice will be much appreciated : )
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    In Memory of Riley Jane
    Moderator Emeritus
    10+ Year Member
    Jun 19, 2007
    Keeping Warm
      I'd say that anytime would be fine. Many docs are more than happy to take the time to explain things. Others, I imagine, wouldn't. But those probably aren't the ones who would be willing to offer to let a premed tag along.

      Because the main reason to shadow is to better understand what being a doctor involves, earlier is probably better. That way, if it helps you decide that the lifestyle is not suitable for you, you can rechart your career path earlier.

      Shadowing isn't a full-time endeavor. You can be very involved in volunteer work and still fit in opportunities to shadow here and there. It's much more likely to serve you better in the long run to have long term volunteer and other EC involvement than it is to have long term shadowing.


      10+ Year Member
      Apr 14, 2007
      1. Medical Student
        Also to add onto what Humid said...You really dont have to shadow alot...A few days or weeks for a few hours is probably enough. Just enough to get an idea to what the medical profession is all about.


        ~Keeping Faith~
        10+ Year Member
        Feb 24, 2008
        1. Pre-Medical
          not to reiterate what some of the folks said already, but the point of shadowing is so you can see how the field is and if you can find yourself working as a doctor. I can honestly say that people have shadowed and decided that the medical field was not right for them. I even know people who shadowed in high its not too early, you are fine...shadow now and spread it out...which is a plus for you since you are starting early....HAVE FUN!!! :D


          10+ Year Member
          Aug 14, 2006
          1. Attending Physician
            You will see no chemistry in your shadowing experience. You will understand little medical terminoligy regardless of what classes you have taken. You are not shadowing to learn medicine. You are shadowing to learn about medicine as a life. Perhaps the doctor your mom asked was thinking about medical student rotations?


            the evil queen of numbers
            Verified Expert
            15+ Year Member
            Mar 7, 2005
            1. Academic Administration
              You may want to consider that the doc is trying to use the pre-med weed out classes to thin the herd of pre-meds who he's asked to have tag along.

              Junior year (the year before you make your application) is soon enough to shadow. Meantime, get a volunteer gig and work in a lab.


              too school for cool
              10+ Year Member
              Apr 20, 2008
              the Djougs
              1. Pre-Medical
                If you are interested in shadowing, go for it! It's definitely possible to volunteer and work on other ECs you like while shadowing a physician. Really you're just looking to see if the lifestyle works for you. It makes sense that figuring that out early on is a great idea! But there's really no need to plan your activities out in a strict order; just do what you're interested in! :)
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