The Value of Physician Shadowing for Pre-Meds

September 6, 2018

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

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How Important is Shadowing a Physician?

Shadowing a physician shows what it’s really like when you become a doctor. It gives pre-meds the clinical exposure needed to get into medical school.

What do pre-meds gain from physician shadowing?

Physician shadowing for pre-meds is essential for success. Not only is it a basic requirement for medical school, but it’s also important because it allows pre-meds to:

– Obtain crucial knowledge of how physicians work on a daily basis
– Gain insight into how a doctor deals with real situations
– Discover how patients should be treat with empathy and respect
– Improve their knowledge of medicine and science
– Learn what it’s actually like working for a healthcare service
– Be aware of how to dress and act in a professional environment
– Decide if medicine should really be their future career choice

Experience in medical and paramedical areas often contributes toward an understanding of health care delivery problems and helps to solidify the basis of the student’s motivation toward a career in medicine” – University of Florida College of Medicine.

Ask yourself – why do you want to become a doctor? It’s impossible to answer that without physician shadowing. Harvard Medical School states they “want to see that you have tested your commitment to medicine and that you’re aware of what you’re entering into.” That’s exactly what shadowing a physician provides for pre-meds.

How can I use physician shadowing for medical school?

Using physician shadowing in your application:

All students applying to medical school need to write a personal statement. You have around 5,000 characters to write a brief essay explaining why you want to work in medicine, so if you’ve shadowed a physician, you’ll have an idea of what it’s actually like. Use this experience to your advantage.

Depending on the application service you use, you can also talk about physician shadowing in other parts of your application.

If applying through AMCAS, pre-meds can use their physician shadowing experience in the ‘Work and Activities’ section. You can discuss up to 15 experiences and choose the most meaningful activity to expand on. Physician shadowing for pre-meds is very valuable, so it’s a good idea to discuss what it meant to you in your medical school application.

If you apply though AACOMAS, you can similarly talk about physician shadowing in the ‘Supporting Information.’ This section is where you can discuss your experiences and achievements, so if you’ve shadowed a physician, it’s a great opportunity to explain how it’s benefited you and made you a better candidate for medical school.

Using physician shadowing at your interview:

If your primary and secondary applications are successful, you’ll be invited to attend a medical school interview, where you’ll be asked about your motivations to work in medicine. Questions that could come up are:

– How do you know this is the right career for you?
– What do you think a physician does on a daily basis?
– How would you deal with the challenges a physician faces?

Physician shadowing for pre-meds is important for your interview because it allows you to base your answers on real experience.

How to find physician shadowing for pre-meds?

Competitive applicants will have shadowed a variety of physicians for at least 24 hours,” says the University of Utah School of Medicine. That’s only a few hours every day for one week. You can find physician shadowing by:

– Asking your family doctor
– Contacting local hospitals
– Going on a medical internship abroad

Finding physician shadowing at home can be difficult. With more than 800,000 applicants last year, there’s a very strong competition to get into medical school. That could be more than 800,000 pre-meds all looking for physician shadowing opportunities. Start out by speaking with anyone you know who works in medicine, even if they’re not a doctor, because they still might be able to point you in the right direction.

If you don’t have any friends or family working in healthcare – and your family doctor turns you down – it’s ok to call local hospitals to ask if they have anything available. It helps if you research the hospital first – find out which department you’re most interested in and which physician you’d like to shadow before making an inquiry.

Another option for pre-meds is physician shadowing in a different country. By exploring other cultures, you can broaden your knowledge of healthcare and learn about different diseases and treatment you wouldn’t encounter in the US. Think about the state-of-the-art technology used in advanced European hospitals, then compare it to the limited resources and supplies used by Caribbean doctors. Medicine across the globe is incredibly diverse. A medical internship with Gap Medics gives pre-meds the chance to travel and get that all-important physician shadowing experience.

Work experience for medical school is essential. Aspiring physicians and physician assistants should look for shadowing opportunities to strengthen their application. Not only can pre-meds learn what their future career will be like, but they can also ask the physician they shadow for a strong letter of recommendation.

You may be interested in what we do: Gap Medics provides opportunities for aspiring medical students to gain clinical shadowing experience. We offer placements both for pre-medical university students and high school students aged 16 and over, in Europe and the Caribbean. Both programs are residential, and open to students from the United States and around the world. Check out the Gap Medics program here. Thank-you.