Trying to figure out exactly how to request shadowing opportunities can be difficult. In addition to being the humble premed student, seeking the knowledge of those physicians who have been practicing medicine for years, you find yourself wondering where you should even begin to look. The following outlines some things that may help streamline your shadowing experience.
Don’t be reluctant to outright request shadowing opportunities. You may be surprised at the level of interest that physicians take in future doctors. While some physicians may be reluctant due to HIPAA risks and patient confidentiality concerns, many embrace the courage and ambition of young pre-meds.
Yes, there are many physicians that will say no in an instant. Some of them fear the HIPAA liabilities that come along with shadowing. Others merely may not want to take the time to help or had trouble with students shadowing in the past. Regardless of the number of “no” responses, remember that you only need one “yes” to accomplish your goal.
Have a resume’ ready.
A resume can serve more than one purpose for the intent to shadow a physician. It may offer the doctor or hospital you’ll be working with an opportunity to learn about your professional, volunteer, and clinical experience that makes you a viable candidate for shadowing. Also, having a resume ready will show that you’ve taken the time to adequately prepare for professional encounters.
If you are not sure how to write a resume or simply would like an example, we have created resumes specifically for pre-meds. Be sure to highlight your medical experience and also to alleviate any concerns the physician may have for patient privacy and patient rights.
Cold call or walk into an office.
Be sure to use the telephone, in-person, and postal mail as your primary form of contact. Although technology is becoming a much more part of everyday life, e-mail lacks the sincerity and formality sometimes needed to persuade a physician to mentor young students. Furthermore, many people may disregard unsolicited emails. You wouldn’t want the effort spent on your resume and cover letter to end up in the spam folder or trash.
If you know what a phone book is, brush the dust off of it and open it up. If you’ve never actually used a phone book, this is a great time to start. Physicians, especially older ones, still purchase advertising space in the local yellow pages. Why? Well, because most of their patients are older and never “Googled” a physician and wouldn’t know how.
This can be risky, but with proper preparation walking into a physicians office can provide opportunity and networking beyond measures. Be sure to be dressed appropriately ( suits for men and suits/dresses for ladies) and conduct some research about the physician you intend to ask before you arrive. Check out the Physician Shadowing Etiquette page for more information.
Realize that physicians are among the most educated and possibly the most intelligent professionals in the world. They will know if your motives are unfitting for their office and patients. Use your own words to express what opportunities you are looking for and what you believe the future has in store for your medical career.
This is your opportunity to show your passion for medicine. If you feel as though you are shadowing a physician simply because it’s a requirement, you may want to pursue a different career.
Family and Friends
Then, start with family members and people that you know that may know physicians. Personal requests and recommendations are always more successful,personal, and fulfilling than programs that offer routine shadowing of a physician. Ask your family physician. Check with your local AMSA and local hospital human resources department to see if they have an agreement with any local physicians.
Already found an opportunity shadowing a physician?
Found an opportunity and unsure what to do next? Visit our page on shadowing etiquette.