How many shadowing hours do I need for medical school?

November 26, 2020

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

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If you want to become a doctor, you are probably wondering: how many shadowing hours do I need for medical school? 

When it comes to your shadowing requirements, most medical schools will list their expectations on their website. However, even if a school does not specifically require shadowing hours, it’s a good idea to have some experience. It’s generally expected that premed students have a minimum of 40 hours of shadowing. However, students often have up to 100 hours of clinical shadowing, in addition to other types of experience. 

There are a host of requirements for most medical programs, which makes for a lot of preparation for pre-med and pre-health students. You want to fulfill all prerequisites as best you can so that you can be a competitive applicant. 

However, it’s important to remember that the shadowing experience is not just about checking a box. Shadowing is a chance for you to figure out if medicine is right for you. Rather than worrying too much about how many shadowing hours you need for medical school, focus on finding a variety of experiences that allow you to explore your options. You’ll know you’ve had a good experience and are ready to commit when you can show an understanding of the field and explain why it is the right choice for you. 

At Global Pre-Meds, we specialize in doctor shadowing and global health programs. By applying to one of our programs, you can avoid the struggle of finding a doctor to shadow and ensuring that it’s a positive experience. All you have to do is apply and you will get 40 hours of shadowing on the front lines of an international hospital or an in-depth look into global health and African culture. Medical doctors who have been specifically chosen will serve as your mentors and answer any questions that you have. 

Why is it important to shadow a doctor?

Shadowing a doctor helps you understand what it is really like to be a physician and shows medical schools that you are ready for that commitment. Before you spend thousands of dollars and spend so many years in medical school, you should try to get a picture of what your life will look like as a healthcare professional. 

Shadowing a physician, especially over several days, lets you see a range of experiences from the doctor’s perspective and allows you to examine the inner workings of a hospital or clinic. No two days are the same – some are exhilarating, some maybe dull, and it’s always going to be hard work. 

You may begin shadowing with certain expectations and realize that you didn’t quite understand what was involved. You may think that you want to pursue one medical specialty but see something else that catches your eye instead. Shadowing presents a wonderful learning opportunity, so long as you approach it with professionalism and find a great mentoring doctor. 

Our programs have been designed specifically for students interested in becoming doctors, physician assistants, nurses, or midwives. We consider applicants carefully, and select students who are passionate about learning, as well as responsible and mature enough to handle the opportunity. Just as we have handpicked our mentors because we know they will provide a comprehensive learning experience for you.

While not all medical schools require shadowing, they still want to know their applicants understand what they’re getting into. Take notes on your experience to help you remember what you observed, and you may end up using some of those experiences in an application essay. As always, remember to check with the programs you’re interested in to see what their expectations are. 

What is the difference between clinical experience and shadowing?

You’ll find that many medical school applications ask for students to have both shadowing and clinical experience. It’s important to understand the distinction, so you can seek out the right opportunities and accurately record them on your resume or application. 

Shadowing experience is usually observational only. The goal of shadowing is to watch a healthcare professional and learn from that experience. You do not have any responsibility over patient care.

The purpose of clinical experience is to learn from direct patient interaction. This could take the form of volunteering or paid work experience, but it’s any medical experience where you are treating, diagnosing, or otherwise responsible for patients in some way. 

If you’re figuring out how many shadowing hours you need for medical school, remember that you can not double-dip. If you use an experience to fulfill clinical experience hours, then you can’t use those same hours to fulfill your shadowing requirements.

Both opportunities are important because you can start building your connections in the healthcare field. Keep in mind that any clinical or shadowing experience is also a way for you to get to know potential references for school and future opportunities that you may want to pursue. The physicians and professionals that you meet may be good sources for letters of recommendation

Our Global Pre-Meds program in the Dominican Republic includes a personal letter of recommendation. Because you are paired with a mentor for two weeks, they are able to get to know you and write an honest depiction of your skills and commitment to the healthcare profession. 

It’s never too early to start exploring your options and building your network, which is why we have programs for high school, university, and gap year students. You can explore your interests with us, while receiving a balanced view of medical cases and surgeries. Our ethical and safe programs will put you right on the front lines for first-hand experience

We are also a fully residential program, which means with your one-time fee we provide the learning experience as well as food, transportation, and housing. We take care of everything so that you can focus on the learning experience.

If you’re looking for experience shadowing a doctor, you should check out our program dates here