How to find a physician assistant to shadow

November 10, 2020

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

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Job shadowing is an important requirement for most students who want to apply to physician assistant school. But how do you find a physician assistant to shadow?

There are several ways you can find medical shadowing hours as a pre-PA student, including finding a PA that you know, using healthcare provider registries, or looking for a different healthcare professional to shadow. We have explored all of these options for your consideration.

We understand the importance of shadowing because that’s what we do at Global Pre-Meds. We provide doctor shadowing and international healthcare experience abroad for premed, nursing, midwifery, or physician assistant students. We want to help you fulfill your PA school shadowing requirements in the easiest way possible.

Why is it important for pre-PA students to shadow?

It’s important for you to shadow and understand the PA profession before committing to that career path. By shadowing, you are not only fulfilling the requirements of your physician assistant program, but you are making sure you understand exactly what PAs do.

Your job as a PA is to assist with the workload of doctors and physicians. Physician assistants complete training that’s quite similar to a medical doctor, but the program is usually two years long instead of four. You need a strong medical foundation to be able to assist in different cases. By spending some hours shadowing, you’ll get to see what your responsibilities will be as a physician assistant.

Shadowing in a hospital or clinic also gives you the opportunity to see other healthcare professionals at work. While you may have your heart set on becoming a physician assistant, there is the possibility that another field of medicine might interest you more. If you manage to get a comprehensive shadowing experience, you can confidently say that becoming a physician assistant is right for you.

Another benefit of shadowing a physician assistant or doctor is that you start building your connections in the healthcare field. It’s important to have references as you apply for school and into your career.

At Global Pre-Meds, you will shadow on the frontlines of international hospitals and clinics, observing how a team of healthcare professionals works together, often with limited resources.

In the Dominican Republic, your mentoring doctor will guide you through a range of medical and surgical cases in a local hospital. When you complete the program, they will write you a personal letter of recommendation that you can use for your future applications.

In Tanzania, you will be led by mentors through different aspects of community healthcare. You’ll learn from tribal healers in rural villages as well as modern healthcare professionals at a health center, as you observe how culture impacts medicine.

Can I shadow a doctor as a pre-PA student?

Because it can be difficult to find a physician assistant specifically, we know many pre-PA students want to know if they can shadow other healthcare professionals. The answer is yes!

We know that most programs ask you to have a certain number of shadowing hours, but they don’t all have to be with a physician assistant. You can shadow a doctor or physician to earn hours towards your PA school requirements.

Keep in mind that you should always check with your specific physician assistant program or school before you commit to using an experience on your resume. You can check the requirements of PA schools through the Physician Assistant Education Association’s directory.

The experience you gain shadowing a doctor is also valuable to you as a pre-PA student because you will eventually be assisting them in their work day. By shadowing a doctor, you will still see the cases that you will have to help diagnose and treat, just as you would if you were shadowing a PA.

At Global Pre-Meds, we design our programs to fit your interests. If you want to become a PA, we try to pair you with peers who have similar interests. If you know what specialty you want to focus on, your mentoring doctor will guide you towards those cases and colleagues that are in line with your career path.

In addition to an amazing experience shadowing on hospital frontlines, you also gain a global health perspective that few pre-PA students possess. You will observe cases that are common or even unique to the country you’re in. Diverse patient experience, no matter your specialty, will be an asset to your future as a healthcare professional.

How to find a physician assistant to shadow

It’s always best to start with the people you know. Even if you don’t know a physician assistant, try to reach out to any friends or family members that have a connection to healthcare. You may be able to find a friend of a friend who would be willing to let you observe them.

If you can’t think of someone you know in the healthcare field, then you are going to have to find some physician assistants in your area. You can search for physician assistants near you by using registries, such as the National Provider Identifier Registry in the United States.

Once you have found some names of physician assistants nearby, you can email them or call and ask if they will allow you to shadow them. Be polite, direct, and prepare to be flexible, so you can fit around their schedule. If you don’t hear back from someone after a couple of weeks, it’s okay to send a second message or make another call.

There are also options for virtual shadowing if you don’t feel you can find a PA or doctor in your area. You can check with your university or local hospital and ask if they have any online shadowing programs. Keep in mind, virtual shadowing doesn’t quite give you the same experience that in-person shadowing programs do.

The easiest way to find shadowing hours is to join us at Global Pre-Meds. All you have to do is apply and get ready for your adventure. Our programs are fully residential, meaning we take care of everything from housing, to food, to transportation. Your job is to focus on the learning experience.

You can check out our program dates here.