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What do you do when you "shadow a doctor"?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by james1988, Jun 13, 2008.

  1. james1988

    james1988 Banned

    Mar 9, 2008
    What exactly does it mean to shadow a doctor? You just follow him around all day? Is this really something that's highly recommended for medical school? If one of my parents is a doctor does this mean I've shadowed a doctor for my whole life? I see on many peoples mdapps "Shadowed Doctor - 2500 Hours"; is this serious? Do people really shadow doctors for so many hours? Please clarify what this all means, and I'm sorry if I'm coming off as ignorant..
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  3. LucidSplash

    LucidSplash Wire Jockey Trainee Gold Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

    Feb 27, 2005
    Shadowing = "be like a shadow." So you follow the doctor around at their place of business/employment and watch what they do, what them interact with patients, ask a few questions about cases you've seen, and maybe do a few blood pressures and look in a few ears and noses.

    Yes, this is really something highly recommended for medical school. Its something very easy to do that pretty much everyone has and if you don't do it the adcoms wonder why you didn't at least put in that much effort. Additionally, it is supposed to give you a bit of insight into what it is *actually* like to be a doctor, rather than the "mystique."

    I would find a doctor OTHER than your parents to shadow. Not only can you ask someone you're not related to for a LOR (which you can't do with a parent) but it looks more legitimite to do the actual shadowing with someone who is not your parent.

    As for shadowing for 2500 hours? Maybe some people do. It seems excessive to me and like you could better use that time for other clinically related activities, research, volunteering, etc. I would say shadowing for a few hours a month is the minimum necessary, for around 6 months (not necessarily consecutive months). Personally I shadowed every other week during two summers. I would stay between a half day and a full day when I went. I shadowed a radiologist and a hematologist. I got into medical school. The end.
  4. MonkeyChow

    MonkeyChow 7+ Year Member

    May 21, 2008
    I have shadowed several different doctors in different specialties. I have about 40hours of shadowing and that seems adequate to me.

    I think shadowing is useful to a certain extent as it allows you to see what a doctor really does so that you know what you are getting into. My shadowing basically involved following the doctor around and asking questions when appropriate. Ethically, a pre-med shouldn't be doing much more than that.

    Obviously, you have a different perspective than someone who doesn't have a physician parent (like me) so you probably have a pretty good idea about what a doctor (atleast in one specialty) does.
  5. unsung

    unsung 10+ Year Member

    Mar 12, 2007

    Nothing. Pretty much. I don't get how people can shadow for more than about 10 hours. I mean, it's one thing to be a medical student and to actually be able to learn some of the science behind what's going on. But it's another thing to be pre-med and follow around mindlessly. Blah.
  6. olemissbabydoc

    olemissbabydoc Baby Doctor Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

    Jul 27, 2006
    Between "there" and "there"
    It depends on the doc you're working with. Hopefully you actually get to get close/ see cool stuff. Some docs you will just stand behind them and watch. No, just because your parents are a doc doesn't mean you've been shadowing... it is a different experience.

    Shadowing is a great way to learn if you really enjoy what doctors do, and this is why med schools think it is so important.

    2500 hours is fairly intense. I have waaay less than that, (about 200 - will be at about 300-400 by the time I start med school probably) and I feel like I will have a decent idea of what I'm getting myself into. Most folks just don't have 2500 hours of "free time".
  7. Nilf

    Nilf 10+ Year Member

    It's beyond me why adcoms would ever consider shadowing as a good item on your application. You should shadow a doctor TO LEARN ABOUT WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE DOCTOR, not to pad your application. Once you've shadow enough, THEN you make a decision whether medicine is for you.

    Having said that, the only shadowing which I would consider worthwhile would be a following setup:

    You shadow an intern for a month. You sleep in the hospital when he/she is on call. When he's paged, you get up as well. When he scrubs in for surgery, you do the same. When he's holding up a belly of a 300 lb pregnant woman to get ideal monitoring of fetal heartbeat, you do the same from the other side of the bed.

    Only after you go through this ordeal you can claim that you've seen what being a doctor is like.
  8. 175961

    175961 2+ Year Member

    Nov 15, 2007
    The Shadow Gallery
    My shadow is sometimes behind me, my shadow is sometimes in front of me....we never seem to be one in the same. Take home message....stay out of the docs way and just watch him. Dont offer advice to the patients, dont speak unless spoken to, dont make the doc regret having you around.:laugh:

    Just kidding....sort of. When I was shadowing a fam doc it was actually pretty fun. He would make an effort make sure I knew was it was like, he showed me interesting things when patients presented with this and that, I got to listen to some heart murmurs that older patients of his had. I never got to be in the room when girls pants had to come off though, he was considerate of the patients feelings. watch, listen, ask questions when there is a little down time...
  9. LucidSplash

    LucidSplash Wire Jockey Trainee Gold Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

    Feb 27, 2005
    The set up you've described is good for learning what intern year is like. And apparently the intern is a general surgery/OBGYN resident? Regardless this is not what being an attending is like, only what to expect during intern year.

    And your first comment was correct. Adcoms want to see shadowing on your application so they can see that you've done "due diligence" in finding out what being a doctor is like, to the best of your ability as a pre-med. It may be a poor substitute but its really all you have. The point is that the answer to the OPs question is simple - adcoms expect to see it, it is easy to do, and if you don't you should be ready to have a really good answer for why you don't have it, if you even get so far as to be asked the question.
  10. Nilf

    Nilf 10+ Year Member

    Yes, I described typical intern activities. Still, it's part of what doctors do. If you shadow, why not shadow an intern?

    I agree with you that adcoms want to see whether the applicant has done 'due diligence'. However, most applicants loose sight of what the TRUE purpose of shadowing is, and they treat it as yet another bright bullet point on their application, another item on 'to do' checklist. As a result, we end up with applicants who have NO CLUE what medicine is all about.

    Maybe I'm a purist.
  11. IMO shadowing doesn't "help" you. It won't give you an advantage over others necessarily to say you have been in the OR for 100 hours. It could be counted as "clinical experience" but it is merely observing. Shadowing, for its only practical purpose, serves to reaffirm your interest in medicine. Don't shadow all the time thinking "wow, none of my friends are doing as much as me, it'll look better for me" because that is false.

    On the other hand, don't get discouraged if during your first shadowing experience , which may happen to be with a doc on the trauma surgery service, and you happen to get a patient with a tree stuck in their face, you pass out/vomit/run out of the hospital screaming. If this happens, maybe stay away from trauma surgery for a while and try something a little less intense like reconstructive plastics.

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