Doctor Shadowing: What to do before, during and after.

October 16, 2013

Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.

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You’ve heard about the benefits of doctor shadowing but you are not sure about the protocol. Where do you find a doctor to shadow? What are you expected to do or not do while shadowing? What do you do after the experience? These are thoughts that most pre-med students have when it comes to physician shadowing and this article aims to answer all of these questions.


Surgery in Tanzania Obviously, the first thing you will need to do is find a doctor who you can shadow or a hospital that provides shadowing facilities for pre-med students. If the college you are studying in has a medical school, your best bet is to approach the premed office and get details of where you can find the best opportunities. If you are not on a college campus, you can start by asking your doctor or asking family and friends if they know any doctor who you can shadow.  

When you do find a medical facility or doctor that you can shadow, do not impose your timing restrictions upon them. Instead, be flexible and be willing at whatever time is convenient to the physician you are shadowing.  


Respect the privacy of every patient that you come across. This is absolutely mandatory, irrespective of anything else all.

Nicole holding a new born Always carry a notebook and pen around when you are shadowing a physician. There is so much happening through the day and you are likely to have a lot of questions. It could be that you do not understand the patient’s symptoms or diagnosis or you have questions regarding some procedure. It is best not to bombard the doctor with questions throughout the day, especially when you are both within earshot of the patient. At all times, the doctor’s primary concern is the patient and not the pre-med student. Interrupting the doctor with questions while he is trying to make complex decisions is not appreciated. The time to ask questions is after both of you are done with the rounds and the doctor does not have any pressing problems that require his immediate attention.

Dress comfortably. This is especially with regards to your footwear. You are likely to be on your feet for a long, long time. The last thing you need are shoes that pinch your toes or which do not offer adequate cushioning. That does not mean you should wear sports shoes. You do want to project a professional image to patients even when you are shadowing. Wear your most comfortable pair of shoes that are not sneakers. It is advisable to wear a pair of closed shoes as open-toed shoes increase your risk of coming in contact with body fluids on the floor or getting your toe stubbed by the countless trolleys that are continuously whizzing by.  


Reflect on your shadowing experience after it is over. Make notes about what happened during the day, the different patients that you had the opportunity to observe and their diagnoses and treatments. Reflecting on your experiences is a good way to remember everything and use it when you are writing your personal statement for your medical school application.

Last but not least, don’t forget to thank the doctor for the opportunity.