How old do you have to be to shadow a doctor?

December 11, 2020

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

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If you are a student interested in medicine, you are probably looking for more clinical experience. You may be asking: how old do you have to be to shadow a doctor? 

The answer is: it depends on the program or healthcare institution you are asking. If you are 18 and over you will be able to shadow at nearly any facility. Some places will allow you to shadow a doctor in high school, as long as you have permission from your guardian, and you may be restricted to certain areas of the hospital. 

To shadow a doctor or shadow a surgeon under 18, you will have to check with the hospital or clinic’s policies, and find a doctor who will allow you on their service. This can be more challenging than if you are underage. 

This is why we have designated sessions for high school students and college students who are interested in a career in medicine. At Global Pre-Meds, we created international doctor shadowing and global health experience programs to fit your needs, and allow you to begin your journey as a pre-med or pre-health student. 

It’s never too early to start considering your options, which is why our high school program allows students 16-18 years of age to join us on the front lines of international hospitals. The high school and university programs are exactly the same in terms of program content, but our high school programs have age appropriate, 24/7 supervision. 

Below we have explored how you can find healthcare job shadowing experience no matter how old you are.

How to ask a doctor to shadow them

No matter how old you are, you may not know how to ask to shadow a doctor. You may have to ask a few people before you find the right shadowing opportunity

We always recommend that you ask your friends and family, or personal doctor first. If you know someone who is already in the healthcare field, even if you cannot shadow them, they may be able to connect you with someone else. 

If that doesn’t work, you can contact the hospital and clinics near you. Do an internet search for doctors who work at nearby hospitals or clinics so that you have a few specific people to ask about. You may have to call or email the hospital, or if you have the individual doctor’s contact info, you can get in touch with them directly. 

Consider what you want to get out of your experience when asking to shadow a doctor. It’s a good idea to include why you want to shadow that doctor specifically, so try to choose someone that is doing work you’re interested in. 

If you don’t hear back in a couple of weeks, it’s okay to send another message. If you still don’t hear back, then you may want to focus in another direction. 

This isn’t always an easy process, particularly when you are under 18 years of age. This is why we have made it easy for you – all you have to do is apply to the Global Pre-Meds program. 

We have already selected amazing mentoring doctors for you, and for a one-time program fee, we take care of your food, transportation, and housing in-country. You get a global health experience that will help you advance quickly on your journey to medicine, physician assistant, nursing, or midwifery. 

Doctor shadowing opportunities for high school students

There are several ways you can find doctor shadowing opportunities as a high school student. One option would be to ask people you know and the surrounding hospitals, like we mentioned above. 

You can also ask your school advisors if they know of any options for students who want clinical experience and medical shadowing hours. Your school may even have a health club, or a HOSA – Future Health Professionals chapter at your high school, which could connect you with mentoring doctors.

However, there are more formalized observation and shadowing programs for high school students interested in medicine. Some hospitals have pre-med observation programs listed on their websites, where you can review their requirements. 

Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, for example, requires that you identify a physician that will allow you to shadow and then submit an application for all job shadowing experiences at their facility. Their application includes your age, school, and resume submission.

There are also volunteer programs, which you can sign up for through hospitals or other services like VolunteerMatch. Keep in mind, that if you are under 18 years of age, it can be difficult to find volunteer opportunities that will give you a good understanding of how the hospital works. If you don’t have medical experience yet, more than likely you will help with the administration and logistical side of things. You should never participate in medical procedures that you are not qualified for. 

We take safety and ethics very seriously. Our doctor shadowing programs put you right on the frontlines of international hospitals, but they are strictly observational. You will be under the direct supervision of a medical doctor the whole time. This is to keep you, the patients, and the medical institutions safe.

You can visit new countries for a unique experience while getting the healthcare hours you want. Our mentors will guide you through our two-week programs, showing you a range of medical cases and surgeries that can help you decide if medicine is right for you, and what path or specialty you may want to choose. We encourage younger students to explore their options, and we can help you do that in a safe, fun way.

Our Dominican Republic program offers you about 40 hours of shadowing experience on hospital frontlines. Our Tanzania program takes you through different aspects of healthcare in the country, including tribal healers, and modern medicine at a local health center. Check out our program dates here!