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Why is finding a physician to shadow so challenging?

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    It seems that searching for a physician to shadow is much like finding a needle in a haystack. There has to be a better system for this! If medical schools require applicants to have shadowing hours, then I feel there should be a program which requires physicians to allow pre med shadowing for a minimum number of hours per year. It just doesn’t make sense to require something that’s much like a gamble to accomplish.

    /rant

    Aside from that rant, I keep reading that fellow SDNers have found physicians to shadow by emailing them but where are you getting these email addresses? I’m only coming across basic office constant emails, not physician emails.

    Any advice on how I can kickstart this shadowing thing would be great.


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    Pagan FutureDoc

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      It’s not always hard to find someone to shadow. But enough people seem to have this problem.
      One good way I know is to talk to your PCP, it may be unlikely that they would let you shadow them directly but they may know someone you could shadow and even be willing to put in a good word for you.
       
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      mcdocky

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        As someone without any hospital connections whatsoever, I can tell you that it really isn't that hard. Just volunteer at your hospital or local clinic and start talking to doctors during their lunch breaks followed by politely asking if you could shadow them whenever they are free. It's like approaching a girl. You'll probably get rejected a lot, but you'll also find a few gems that are interested in you as well.
         
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          It's possible your school has a premed physician shadowing program or otherwise has connections to help you find someone to shadow. Have you reached out to your pre-professional office to see if they have a list of names?

          My school has a shadowing program, but only 1% get in. I think it's better to do it yourself by asking physicians in a hospital. I shadowed in various departments by simply emailing the physicians or calling and leaving a voice mail if the hospital doesn't show their email.

          This is from my personal experience. I was told by an admin coordinator that the physicians in that coordinator's department love me and one of the reasons was because they thought it was refreshing to have someone who contacted the physicians to shadow instead of doing it through that program.
           

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            It’s not always hard to find someone to shadow. But enough people seem to have this problem.
            One good way I know is to talk to your PCP, it may be unlikely that they would let you shadow them directly but they may know someone you could shadow and even be willing to put in a good word for you.

            Thanks for the reply. If I had a PCP that would be helpful, but I no longer have health insurance due to I’m a broke college student.


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              It's possible your school has a premed physician shadowing program or otherwise has connections to help you find someone to shadow. Have you reached out to your pre-professional office to see if they have a list of names?

              Thank you. I’ll reach out to my pre-med advisor and see if she has any recommendations.


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              The Knife & Gun Club

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                if you go to school that has an associated medical school or hospital, then it is possible that you already have their emails in your .edu email accounts address book. Thats how I got most of my shadowing.

                Literally found a young looking doctor in an interesting speciality on the "find a doctor" page of the hospital, then typed that name into the email directory. Doctor would pop up right away every time!

                Edit: Young doctors > old ones because the young doctors applied when the environment was similar to what it is now. Many old docs never had to shadow or do any of the EC's, so they're less likely to understand why shadowing is important.
                 

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                  My school has a shadowing program, but only 1% get in. I think it's better to do it yourself by asking physicians in a hospital. I shadowed in various departments by simply emailing the physicians or calling and leaving a voice mail if the hospital doesn't show their email.

                  This is from my personal experience. I was told by an admin coordinator that the physicians in that coordinator's department love me and one of the reasons was because they thought it was refreshing to have someone who contacted the physicians to shadow instead of doing it through that program.
                  Sounds like you've got a handle on it. Make sure you use your connections -- you'll have a better success rate than if you're cold-calling people.

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                    As someone without any hospital connections whatsoever, I can tell you that it really isn't that hard. Just volunteer at your hospital or local clinic and start talking to doctors during their lunch breaks followed by politely asking if you could shadow them whenever they are free. It's like approaching a girl. You'll probably get rejected a lot, but you'll also find a few gems that are interested in you as well.

                    I’ve thought about this, but I don’t really interact with the doctors at the hospital that I volunteer at (I work the main information desk). So I would feel like an annoyance just walking up to random doctors whom I’ve never spoken to and asking them to let me shadow. Is this just a weird fear that I need to get over?


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                    21Rush12

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                      Step 1: chill. When you’re practicing, would you want someone to come along and tell you you have to allow a student you don’t know to follow you around all day when you’re busy? There are 1000000 premeds, and if you’ve met any you know that a good share are insufferable. Making the connections for yourself shows the person that you’re not going to be one of those people.

                      This is networking, just contact people and see what you can do. Making connections at work or volunteering is a good start.
                       
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                      mcdocky

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                        I’ve thought about this, but I don’t really interact with the doctors at the hospital that I volunteer at (I work the main information desk). So I would feel like an annoyance just walking up to random doctors whom I’ve never spoken to and asking them to let me shadow. Is this just a weird fear that I need to get over?


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                        Gotta get over it. I didn't have formal interactions with any of the doctors I shadowed. I just literally walked up to them while they ate their sandwich and was like "hey, you're in X department (it says it on their white coat), that's really cool. I'm interested in becoming a physician but don't know much about your specialty. Can you tell me about your day to day and the job in general?" and then I'd just have some normal banter and act extremely interested in the specialty and ask if it was possible for me to shadow them.

                        The first doctor I talked to I didn't even have to ask, they literally told me at the end "hey, look I love helping kids out and you seem like a nice kid so if you're interested in shadowing me let me know." I said yeah and that's how I got the ball rolling.
                         
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                          Step 1: chill. When you’re practicing, would you want someone to come along and tell you you have to allow a student you don’t know to follow you around all day when you’re busy? There are 1000000 premeds, and if you’ve met any you know that a good share are insufferable. Making the connections for yourself shows the person that you’re not going to be one of those people.

                          This is networking, just contact people and see what you can do. Making connections at work or volunteering is a good start.

                          Actual yes, as a physician I would feel that I am helping the future generation of physicians by making myself available to shadow. As a physician, I would endorse such a program.


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                          Robin-jay

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                            Its not. I called several places when I was shadowing and although several turned me down, I'd honestly say for MD shadowing, every other phone call should suffice.

                            Find a DO physician was far more challenging (less DO physicians), but still, about 1 out of every few calls should work.

                            1.) Go to google
                            2.) Type in clinics/hospitals near your area
                            3.) Call them
                            4.) When asking, state that you are a college student pursuing medicine who wishes to job shadow for roughly "x" amount of hours. Tell the office you plan on being a physician and are taking the necessary steps to do so, so you sound genuine and serious.

                            It's not hard.

                            I personally think people don't like doing this because "they get rejected" when asking to shadow, as though its personal.
                             
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                              Its not. I called several places when I was shadowing and although several turned me down, I'd honestly say for MD shadowing, every other phone call should suffice.

                              Find a DO physician was far more challenging (less DO physicians), but still, about 1 out of every few calls should work.

                              1.) Go to google
                              2.) Type in clinics/hospitals near your area
                              3.) Call them
                              4.) When asking, state that you are a college student pursuing medicine who wishes to job shadow for roughly "x" amount of hours. Tell the office you plan on being a physician and are taking the necessary steps to do so, so you sound genuine and serious.

                              It's not hard.

                              I personally think people don't like doing this because "they get rejected" when asking to shadow, as though its personal.

                              I was planning on doing this. So when I call, I’ll likely get a receptionist to answer, correct? Is the receptionist who I should be speaking to or should I ask to speak with the clinic manager or physician themselves? Thanks for your help. I’m clueless.


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                                Sounds like you've got a handle on it. Make sure you use your connections -- you'll have a better success rate than if you're cold-calling people.

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                                I didn't use any connections. I basically cold emailed them. I know that isn't a term, but you get the idea. I actually cold called a physician at a children's hospital because the roster for that hospital didn't include their emails and the physician said yes and gave me their email.
                                 

                                Robin-jay

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                                  I was planning on doing this. So when I call, I’ll likely get a receptionist to answer, correct? Is the receptionist who I should be speaking to or should I ask to speak with the clinic manager or physician themselves? Thanks for your help. I’m clueless.


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                                  From my experience, tell the receptionist your reason for calling, and more than likely they will transfer you to the manager (even get the phone number). Often times the manager is not present. Leave a message.

                                  Call back every so often.
                                   

                                  21Rush12

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                                    Actual yes, as a physician I would feel that I am helping the future generation of physicians by making myself available to shadow. As a physician, I would endorse such a program.


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                                    You’d endorse the physicians who don’t want to being required to do it anyway? While you or I would choose to allow students, not everyone wants that.

                                    Just wait until you’re with a clinician who hates teaching. Forcing people to do it who don’t want to just makes both parties miserable.
                                     
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                                    Goro

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                                      Thanks for the reply. If I had a PCP that would be helpful, but I no longer have health insurance due to I’m a broke college student.


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                                      Talk to your parent's PCP? Otherwise, follow the wise advice posted earlier. I'm a big fan of networking.
                                       
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                                      HomeSkool

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                                        I didn't use any connections. I basically cold emailed them. I know that isn't a term, but you get the idea. I actually cold called a physician at a children's hospital because the roster for that hospital didn't include their emails and the physician said yes and gave me their email.
                                        I'm glad it worked for you. In the future, though, remember that connections will make everything easier. Work smarter, not harder.
                                         
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                                        HomeSkool

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                                          Thanks for the reply. If I had a PCP that would be helpful, but I no longer have health insurance due to I’m a broke college student.


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                                          If you truly have no insurance, your university has done you a disservice. Every university I've attended (n=3) wrapped an affordable health plan into your required fees if you had no other insurance.
                                           
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                                            Talk to your parent's PCP? Otherwise, follow the wise advice posted earlier. I'm a big fan of networking.

                                            Unfortunately, my parent’s PCPs aren’t an option either. My mother died last year and my father lives very far away. I will heed the advice of above posters though. As always, thanks Goro.


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                                              Actual yes, as a physician I would feel that I am helping the future generation of physicians by making myself available to shadow. As a physician, I would endorse such a program.
                                              You’d endorse the physicians who don’t want to being required to do it anyway? While you or I would choose to allow students, not everyone wants that.

                                              Just wait until you’re with a clinician who hates teaching. Forcing people to do it who don’t want to just makes both parties miserable.
                                              Let's cut this off right here. This vein of conversation has a high risk of sliding into overtly political talk of personal liberty and professional compulsion. Take it to the sociopolitical forum, people.
                                               

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                                                Try looking at academic centers; the doctors there are more likely to accept shadowers since they are already used to med students following them around. Also, if there are interns or residents, they might be more sympathetic and are worth a try as well.
                                                 

                                                ciestar

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                                                  Look for hospitals associated with med schools. Go to those websites and find emails for those physicians. That’s how I got some of my shadowing. I also shadowed my personal ophthalmologist.
                                                   

                                                  bananafish94

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                                                    It's probably because a lot of physicians don't want to mess around with HIPAA or do anything that might make patients uncomfortable. Like many things, it's a numbers game. There are people who are absolutely willing to let you shadow. It might just mean emailing 20 people and only expecting a response from one or two. There might be clubs at your school that facilitate this kind of thing. Or, you could always try and shadow your childhood pediatrician, or anyone you have some kind of connection with over winter/spring break. Thankfully, you don't need a huge amount of shadowing hours.
                                                     
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                                                      Being on the other side of this now, I can tell you that having a shadowing student is just annoying sometimes, even if they say or do nothing. 80% of their time is spent watching you document rather than seeing actual patient care. That being said, as mentioned above, the shotgun method is most effective. Pray someone has enough kindness in their hearts to take you into their world. Good luck.
                                                       
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                                                      Welshman

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                                                        Update: I landed two shadowing gigs. Is 50 hours (total) “enough”?


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                                                        I had ~50 across 5 specialities and two of my interviewers were impressed with it, I think the variety I had did it more than the quantity of hours though. Honestly, I never shadowed primary care but, you seriously aren't going to get anything much out of watching the same physician do the same things for more than 8 hours. If you make yourself seem friendly and interesting then I'm sure more Docs in that practice would love to let you shadow. Your current gigs should be more than willing to help you find more, that's how I got half of mine.
                                                         

                                                        MyBones

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                                                          For the sake of future readers, I figured I'd share what worked for me. I found it difficult to find physicians ( let alone PCP) that we're interested in having a student shadow. I volunteered at my local hospital, and while on a unit a resident overheard me talking about being pre-med. She suggested contacting the education department of the hospital. Bingo! Persistence was key but being curteous and patient with the administration in coordinating shadowing was greatly appreciated by them.

                                                          A different circumstance- I was shadowing a surgeon who was surprised to hear it was difficult to find physicians to shadow and eventually gave me information for doctors she knew who would love to have a student. Network.
                                                           
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                                                            Volunteer at a hospital. When you volunteer there, you will have to complete HIPPA training for that hospital and therefore will be HIPPA compliant in all departments there. Ask to volunteer in the ICU if possible. Most ICUs have morning multidisciplinary rounds. Ask the charge nurse if you can sit in on the rounds. There will be an intensivist at the rounds, ask if you can shadow him/her. All the intensivists I know enjoy teaching and don't mind having students shadow. The intensivist then will be your connection to other doctors to shadow.
                                                            This is how my daughter got her shadowing hours..... but she has a connection (me--she claimed 20 years of shadow experience in her application, haha).
                                                             
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                                                            Lawpy

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                                                              Volunteer at a hospital. When you volunteer there, you will have to complete HIPPA training for that hospital and therefore will be HIPPA compliant in all departments there. Ask to volunteer in the ICU if possible. Most ICUs have morning multidisciplinary rounds. Ask the charge nurse if you can sit in on the rounds. There will be an intensivist at the rounds, ask if you can shadow him/her. All the intensivists I know enjoy teaching and don't mind having students shadow. The intensivist then will be your connection to other doctors to shadow.
                                                              This is how my daughter got her shadowing hours..... but she has a connection (me--she claimed 20 years of shadow experience in her application, haha).

                                                              @HomeSkool does not approve :nono:

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                                                              FroYoOreo

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                                                                I have a kind of related question. I volunteered for hospitals when I was still in college. Completed HIPPA training and lots of credentialing things that take over two months. After graduation I moved to a new city and got a job in a healthcare clinic. To volunteer for the same healthcare network (but in other specialties) or shadowing physicians in network, do I need to go through credentialing again? To shadow a random PCP outside my healthcare network, will they require I go over the full HIPPA training just for a day of shadowing? Thanks!
                                                                 

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                                                                  I have a kind of related question. I volunteered for hospitals when I was still in college. Completed HIPPA training and lots of credentialing things that take over two months. After graduation I moved to a new city and got a job in a healthcare clinic. To volunteer for the same healthcare network (but in other specialties) or shadowing physicians in network, do I need to go through credentialing again? To shadow a random PCP outside my healthcare network, will they require I go over the full HIPPA training just for a day of shadowing? Thanks!

                                                                  ಠ_ಠ


                                                                  Personally, and attendings can correct me, you should be good with same HIPAA certification for the same healthcare network, so you don’t have to undergo HIPAA training again. For shadowing PCP outside the network, it depends on what the PCP says.
                                                                   
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                                                                  FroYoOreo

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                                                                    Personally, and attendings can correct me, you should be good with same HIPAA certification for the same healthcare network, so you don’t have to undergo HIPAA training again. For shadowing PCP outside the network, it depends on what the PCP says.
                                                                    Fk me, I just realized I blast emailed all physicians that I want to shadow with HIPAA spelled as HIPPA. My life...
                                                                     
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                                                                      Fk me, I just realized I blast emailed all physicians that I want to shadow with HIPAA spelled as HIPPA. My life...
                                                                      And they each fell into one of two groups:
                                                                      1. Those who didn't notice
                                                                      2. Those who didn't care
                                                                       
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                                                                      darkhorsepremed

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                                                                        I agree that they need a better system for this. I had to call over 100 local clinics/hospitals to find one that said yes. Meanwhile, some are lucky and quickly find shadowing or they have a relative/family friend to shadow and don't have to spend so much time looking for physicians like I did.
                                                                         
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                                                                        jhmmd

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                                                                          Ask your school's pre-med club if they know anyone who knows anyone. When you do find a physician to shadow, ask them if they know anyone else. Most large universities have some type of pre-health or pre-med association. If not, you can start your own (looks great for leadership). Problem solved!
                                                                           

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                                                                            It seems that searching for a physician to shadow is much like finding a needle in a haystack. There has to be a better system for this! If medical schools require applicants to have shadowing hours, then I feel there should be a program which requires physicians to allow pre med shadowing for a minimum number of hours per year. It just doesn’t make sense to require something that’s much like a gamble to accomplish.

                                                                            /rant

                                                                            Aside from that rant, I keep reading that fellow SDNers have found physicians to shadow by emailing them but where are you getting these email addresses? I’m only coming across basic office constant emails, not physician emails.

                                                                            Any advice on how I can kickstart this shadowing thing would be great.


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                                                                            call/email as many physicians as possible. that isn’t hard to do. If you can’t find shadowing after n=~50, then you can consider it hard
                                                                             
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                                                                              call/email as many physicians as possible. that isn’t hard to do. If you can’t find shadowing after n=~50, then you can consider it hard
                                                                              I think she is already admitted to med school...
                                                                               
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