Shadow a doctor in Ontario

November 12, 2020

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

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We know pre-med and pre-health students struggle to find opportunities to shadow a doctor in Ontario. Shadowing a doctor or physician is the best way to see if medicine is right for you, which is why we want to help you find those opportunities.

At Global Pre-Meds, we provide doctor shadowing and global health experience for high school, university, or gap year students. Although not all universities or medical programs in Ontario require shadowing hours, it is a great way to demonstrate your commitment and determine if medicine is the right profession for you.

Canadian medical schools are some of the most competitive to get into in all the world. We want to help you stand out from the crowd. We have looked into ways you can get healthcare experience if you’re interested in becoming a doctor, nurse, midwife, or physician assistant in Ontario.

Can I shadow a doctor in Canada?

Students frequently ask if it’s legal for them to shadow a doctor in Canada, due to the country’s strict privacy laws. The answer is yes, it is legal for you to shadow a doctor in Ontario and greater Canada, however, it is more difficult to find willing mentors and hospitals.

Canada’s federal privacy protection act, called the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), says that any party who collects personal data is then responsible for the care and privacy of that data. This law extends to businesses as well as any healthcare institutions or individual providers.

Additionally, many other provinces have enacted their own protections when it comes to patient privacy. In Ontario this is called the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA), and it expressly lays out the responsibilities of all healthcare providers and organizations when it comes to protecting patients’ privacy. This is why it can be difficult to find mentoring doctors who are willing to let you shadow them and observe patient care.

That being said, it is not illegal for you to shadow a physician so long as your mentoring doctor and all patients they interact with agree for you to be there. This may involve your signing a confidentiality waiver.

An even easier avenue to find shadowing hours is to join us for one of our Global Pre-Meds programs. We currently offer two programs – one in Tanzania and one in the Dominican Republic – that give you experience on the frontlines of international hospitals and clinics. We have already vetted the hospitals and mentoring doctors so all you have to do is apply.

How to find medical shadowing hours in Ontario

There are several ways to find opportunities to shadow a doctor in Ontario. The best option is always to ask people you know first.

Building connections is so important as you start your journey to becoming a healthcare professional. Consider first if any of your family and friends have connections to the medical field. You could even ask your family doctor if they would let you shadow. You are more likely to get a yes from someone who knows and trusts you already, especially given the confidentiality laws in Ontario.

The next step would be to contact local hospitals and clinics. It’s probably best to start with smaller family clinics, who may be less overwhelmed and more inclined to say yes than some larger hospitals in your area. 

You can send an email, call, or even stop by (in professional dress). Make sure you are respectful in your approach and accept whatever answer you’re given. If you don’t hear a response to your email or voice message, it is okay to reach out again after a couple of weeks. Taking the initiative shows that you are committed and really want the opportunity.

You can also try reaching out to any premed clubs or your nearby universities to see if they have connections to doctors already. There are six medical schools in the Ontario province, and they may have resources for you to help you earn the experience you need. 

Our programs have already been created to provide the best, most comprehensive learning experience for pre-med and pre-health students. Your mentoring doctor has been chosen and trained to guide you through two weeks, answering all your questions, and making sure you see cases that are of interest to you. You don’t have to look for the right experience – we cater to you.

Finding other healthcare experience

Perhaps you can’t find a doctor or physician who is willing to let you observe. That doesn’t mean you are out of options when it comes to finding healthcare experience.

Check your medical program’s website directly or use the Ontario Medical School Application System (OMSAS) to find the prerequisites for medical schools. You want to make sure that whatever you choose – doctor shadowing, volunteering, or any paid work – will help you on your application.

The OMSAS application includes an Autobiographical Sketch (ABS), where you get to showcase all of your extracurricular activities. You want to note any medical experience you have, as well as show that you have the right traits to pursue a career in medicine.

Some Ontario hospitals have formal volunteer programs that you can sign up for. Keep in mind that if you are not a certified medical professional, you should not be performing any hands on medical care during volunteer or observational hours. Some medical opportunities are more about clerical work, so you may want to clarify what kind of jobs you will be doing if you are looking for a certain kind of experience. 

We make sure that you have an amazing learning experience at Global Pre-Meds. Not only will you observe unique cases in international countries, but we also host global health seminars where you can ask more questions and understand the context of what you’re seeing. You can ensure that you are getting valuable healthcare experience on our programs. 

If you are struggling to shadow a doctor in Ontario and you want to make sure medicine is right for you, you should join us at Global Pre-Meds. Check our program dates here