May 31, 2014
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I was accepted into an internship program that matches interns with physicians for shadowing. This is my first time shadowing a physician (lol I'm a first-year undergrad) so I was wondering what I should expect to do and what I should do to prepare for it.

I do expect (and hope for) a good experience that will teach me a lot about the clinical occupation. However, I'm pretty sure that whether or not I get a good experience is dependent upon how I approach the opportunity. So what should I do for preparation? I'm not sure if physicians expect shadowers to come with prior knowledge about their specialty. I have a broad knowledge of general biology at the best but that's pretty much it. Should I do some self-studying on the subject that the physician specializes in (so definitely anatomy & physiology and do some deeper studying on, say, the brain if the physician is a neurologist)? Or will the physician assume that I have no prior knowledge on subjects in medicine and thus teach me what I need to know? I just don't want to be bombarded with medical jargon on my first day and be completely lost (that will definitely not make a good first impression).

My other question: what do undergrads who shadow physicians typically do? Do they organize the physician's equipment (i.e. scrubs, gloves) or do they do some more important jobs that place more expectations on the shadower (like being present at a surgical operation and being a helping hand to the physician like handing them equipment when asked and recording heart rates on the clipboard)? If it's the latter, then I have to admit that I will be a little nervous because being partially trusted with someone's life is a lot to expect for a freshman undergraduate. Admittingly, I hope that my range of responsibilities will lie above simply watching the physician talk to patients and taking notes but be below being a crucial part of a surgical operation (it will be really bad if one mistake that I make results in a surgical operation being a failure). The ideal experience that I imagine is being present at the physician's operation to witness and take notes and being able to help out but no more than the extent of organizing and logging equipment.

EDIT: Sorry, one more question. How much time should I dedicate to shadowing the physician? I was told that most students in the internship program shadow the physician twice a month for at least 8 hours but I was wondering what the ideal time range is for a good experience.
 

Doctor Strange

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"Shadowing" is exactly what the name implies; you will be following the doctor around. You are quite frankly not qualified to be doing anything else. Some doctors may let you do small things here and there like listen to hearts or something, but the vast majority of the time, you will not be doing anything other than observing. You are absolutely not touching anything if you end up in the operating room. Pre-studying is not necessary and is pointless. You're not there to learn clinical medicine, rather you're there to learn what being a doctor is like.
 
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"Shadow"
Essentially, you're a shadow. You follow the doctor around (like a shadow).
You don't talk when you're in the patient's room (like a shadow): unless prompted by the doctor.
You don't touch anything/any patient or do any sort of labor (like a shadow): unless prompted by the doctor.
You can take notes/ask question once you're out of the room (not like a shadow), but always give medical students and residents the priority to talk.

Be observant and stoic; some doctors hate when students make faces even slight facial changes in patient rooms.
Don't be nervous! Most likely your doctor is going to be nice and willing to teach you since he/she signed up to be a part of this program.
 
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Snoopy2006

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Nothing to get worked up about. You won't have real clinical responsibilities. 99% chance if you are in the OR, you won't be scrubbed in - meaning you'll be standing in the distant corner of the OR on a stepstool staring at the back of the surgeon's neck. I think you've over-glamorized the art of shadowing just a bit :laugh:

Your job is to follow him/her around and soak up whatever you can. Your experience will depend on how good of a preceptor you have. The bad ones will have forgotten how much knowledge a pre-med freshman has, and will use medical jargon. Even in these experiences, you can learn a lot: take note of and ask questions about the day to day life of a physician, how he runs his practice, the basics. Note the basics of how he starts taking his histories and communicates with patients.

The good preceptors will teach you at your level. A pediatrician I worked with as a college junior would give me simple homework assignments (e.g. look up the different causes of newborn jaundice) and that was knowledge I never forgot through medical school.

Have a positive attitude, be engaged, and don't be too uptight. They won't have expectations for a college freshman other than being on time and showing some interest and respect for the time/effort they're putting into teaching.
 
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Goro

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You do this to:
A) see what a doctor's day is like
B) to see the how different doctors practice medicine in their specialties (ER vs Radiology vs Primary Care)
C) and my DO applicants should do it to see the similarities and differences between DOs and MDs.

I was accepted into an internship program that matches interns with physicians for shadowing. This is my first time shadowing a physician (lol I'm a first-year undergrad) so I was wondering what I should expect to do and what I should do to prepare for it.

I do expect (and hope for) a good experience that will teach me a lot about the clinical occupation. However, I'm pretty sure that whether or not I get a good experience is dependent upon how I approach the opportunity. So what should I do for preparation? I'm not sure if physicians expect shadowers to come with prior knowledge about their specialty. I have a broad knowledge of general biology at the best but that's pretty much it. Should I do some self-studying on the subject that the physician specializes in (so definitely anatomy & physiology and do some deeper studying on, say, the brain if the physician is a neurologist)? Or will the physician assume that I have no prior knowledge on subjects in medicine and thus teach me what I need to know? I just don't want to be bombarded with medical jargon on my first day and be completely lost (that will definitely not make a good first impression).

My other question: what do undergrads who shadow physicians typically do? Do they organize the physician's equipment (i.e. scrubs, gloves) or do they do some more important jobs that place more expectations on the shadower (like being present at a surgical operation and being a helping hand to the physician like handing them equipment when asked and recording heart rates on the clipboard)? If it's the latter, then I have to admit that I will be a little nervous because being partially trusted with someone's life is a lot to expect for a freshman undergraduate. Admittingly, I hope that my range of responsibilities will lie above simply watching the physician talk to patients and taking notes but be below being a crucial part of a surgical operation (it will be really bad if one mistake that I make results in a surgical operation being a failure). The ideal experience that I imagine is being present at the physician's operation to witness and take notes and being able to help out but no more than the extent of organizing and logging equipment.

EDIT: Sorry, one more question. How much time should I dedicate to shadowing the physician? I was told that most students in the internship program shadow the physician twice a month for at least 8 hours but I was wondering what the ideal time range is for a good experience.
 
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Make sure you bring a stethoscope.
To all the pre-meds, I want to clarify that he's being sarcastic, in case the sarcasm was lost =)

Shadowing is very physician dependent. Some will make shadowing fun and worthwhile for you. However, the vast majority of the time, shadowing will be the most painful experience of your life. 5 minutes will feel like 5 hours. I can't believe you need to shadow for 8 hours... that's insane, 8 hours will feel like 8 years

That said, please know that being a doctor is still a bit different from what you experience shadowing. Its like driving for 4 hours vs watching someone drive for 4 hours. Its way more fun when you're the one treating the patient.

Now, don't prepare AT ALL. Physicians are clueless about pre-med stuff (I dont know anything about chem, orgo, or physics) and pre-meds are clueless about physician stuff. There's no overlap. We generally don't give you actual stuff to do so don't stress about it. When I see that you've been bored out of your mind, I might tell you to listen to a heart, just to keep you entertained. But don't worry, I'm going to listen to the heart again myself regardless
 
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BamaNicole

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It's a very different experience from shadowing as a pre-med vs shadowing as a med student. As a pre-med, you have no knowledge that is expect of you so you are expected to just observe.

As a med student, I'm both an observer and a student. I've had the doctors I shadow take stopping points to show or teach me something about the case. The difference is that I'm expected to have some sort of knowledge base that they can build on.