Virtual shadowing vs. in person shadowing

December 17, 2020

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

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As a pre-health or premed during COVID, you are faced with the challenge of accumulating medical experience hours with greatly limited options. Virtual shadowing opportunities have been created as a way of helping premed students find clinical experience during COVID-19. In this article, we explain the differences between virtual shadowing vs. in person shadowing. 

It’s important to understand what an online shadowing experience is like when compared with an in person experience, before spending time and energy on either. Students who are interested in healthcare and looking for clinical experience hours are asking themselves several questions about shadowing a doctor during COVID-19.

What is the difference between virtual shadowing and in person shadowing? How well will either serve you on your journey to becoming a healthcare professional? We’ve explored the answers to those questions, so you can choose the right opportunity.

We know a lot about shadowing a doctor and what you can – and should – learn, because that’s what we do at Global Pre-Meds. Our doctor shadowing programs and global health experiences help pre-med and pre-health students decide if medicine is right for them, and show admission officers that they are outstanding applicants. We can do this because we control every aspect of our program, unlike most doctor shadowing programs.

We have enhanced our safety protocols to account for the risks of the virus, so that we can continue to help provide hospital shadowing for students who want to be doctors, physician assistants, nurses, or midwives. Our students can safely observe on the frontlines of international hospitals and clinics, as they learn about healthcare from a global perspective.

What will you learn from virtual shadowing? 

There are several virtual shadowing opportunities that you can find searching online. Each of them have different curriculum – most have guest speakers and lecturers, few have live streams, and some will give you a certificate or some way to show you have completed their program. Almost all of them are free. 

However, it’s always good to check with the medical programs and schools that you’re interested in, because they may have the best suggestion for you. Some schools are even offering their own online shadowing courses to help students find doctor shadowing opportunities during coronavirus. The University of Maryland, for example, is offering their students clinical shadowing online

Shadowing online will allow you to remain in the comfort of your own home while you observe case studies from various physicians. One of the benefits of virtual shadowing is you can observe pre-recorded cases that are medically interesting, rather than hoping for interesting cases to appear. You also get to learn from different physicians.

However, when you consider virtual shadowing vs. in person shadowing, you will not get the chance to have as much patient interaction as you would if you were there in person. 

HIPAA laws sometimes prevent students from shadowing in person as it is, and they also restrict recording patient information aside from official purposes and documentation. Patients must give their consent for you to be in the room – virtual or not. This is why it is difficult to get the full experience online. 

You should explore all the online shadowing programs to find which one suits you best. Given that many of them are free of charge, you can try them out and see which one you prefer. Find a program that can help you reach your doctor shadowing goals. 

If you are not enthusiastic about virtual shadowing, we understand and invite you to consider one of our programs abroad. You can isolate from your loved ones and stay in a bubble of your peers and our staff for your entire learning experience. We can keep you safe while you observe a balance of medical and surgical cases

Will medical programs accept virtual shadowing hours?

As with any requirements, you should always check with the specific medical schools you want to apply to. However, most medical schools have made adjustments to their application requirements due to the challenges of the pandemic. Some schools, for example, are not requiring MCAT scores because there have been disruptions in administering the exam. It’s really up to the individual school to decide. 

However, it does seem that most schools will accept clinical shadowing that is done online

By the end of your shadowing hours you should be able to explain why medicine is right for you and what the roles and responsibilities of a physician or other healthcare professional are. They also want to see you demonstrate some level of understanding about patient interaction. You should know what professional patient care looks like. If you feel you are able to demonstrate that in your essays and interviews, then you’ll know that you have completed the goals of shadowing a doctor

Keep in mind that shadowing online will not give you the full range of experience that an in-person shadowing experience will. It is difficult to replicate the day-to-day activities of healthcare professionals through a screen. 

Shadowing a doctor at a hospital

Most hospitals and clinics have suspended their volunteer and shadowing programs. It is difficult to find in person opportunities in most countries. 

Because we provide your transportation, accommodation, food, and staff, we are able to confidently offer COVID-resilient programs. Our level of hospitality and support allows us to control the experience so that you remain safe and focused on learning. 

When it comes to the educational benefits of virtual shadowing vs. in person shadowing, shadowing a doctor at a hospital far outweighs what you can learn online. This is because the purpose of shadowing a doctor is to observe a range of cases, which is best done when you observe the same doctor for multiple days at a time. Most virtual shadowing programs do not operate this way. 

Another benefit of shadowing in person is that you can view the entire healthcare facility and learn about the various roles within a hospital. You may observe a specialty or a field of medicine that you prefer over becoming a physician. You also get to build a relationship with your mentor, who can serve as a reference and offer a letter of recommendation

At Global Pre-Meds, our mentoring doctors have been selected based on their level of professionalism and willingness to share their experience with you. We choose only the best, and we provide them with a financial incentive, which comes from your program fee. Your participation helps provide financial stability for these doctors and goes towards the hospitals to help them purchase better resources. 

Consider one of our programs for your doctor shadowing hours. You can view our program dates here