Can you get into med school without shadowing?

April 20, 2021

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

Click here for 2021 shadowing opportunities

In the wake of the pandemic, many aspiring doctors are faced with the challenge of finding shadowing opportunities when most hospitals have suspended their doctor shadowing programs. This leaves premed students asking, can you get into med school without shadowing?

Shadowing can be very beneficial to students who are considering a career in healthcare. It helps you learn about the profession and get experience on the front lines, which is good to add to your medical school application

However, given the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, many medical schools have made adjustments to their application requirements, so that students are still able to submit applications sooner rather than later. 

It’s also interesting to note that the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) surveyed med school admissions officers in 2016, and 87% of participants said they accept alternatives to medical shadowing.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to verify any requirements with the schools you want to apply to. They will have them listed on their website, or you can check what they are through the AAMC Medical School Admission Requirement website

While we do strongly recommend that students find ways to shadow doctors before pursuing medicine, there are some other ways to work around the current challenges. In this article, we will explore how you can find shadowing opportunities and alternatives if you are still unable to find a doctor to shadow.

How to find shadowing opportunities

Before you start asking if you can get into med school without shadowing, make sure you ask all the doctors and healthcare professionals you know if they would allow you to observe them. 

You can even start with your own doctor. Send an email or give them a call and tell them that you’re interested in pursuing a career in medicine. You can ask if you’d be allowed to observe them or if they know another physician who might let you shadow.

It’s helpful to get a variety of shadowing experiences, so even if your doctor practices family medicine and you’re interested in another specialty, it could prove helpful to shadow for a couple of days and make a good impression before observing elsewhere. 

If you do not have any personal connections that you know of, you could post on your social media accounts to reach out to your network and ask if they know anyone you may be able to observe. You may be surprised how many people are willing to help out aspiring medical students. 

The simplest way to find a good placement for doctor shadowing, is through a formal program. Sometimes hospitals and clinics have their own shadowing programs that you can apply for, where they have already selected doctors who can mentor you. 

At Global Pre-Meds, we offer fully curated doctor shadowing programs as well, which allow you to gain frontline experience at international hospitals and clinics. We handpick our mentors and train them to make sure that they provide the best learning experience. 

Sometimes, you might shadow a doctor and find you don’t learn as much as you wanted or don’t feel very connected. With us, you can be confident that we select medical doctors who will serve as the best mentors to you for the duration of your two-week program. The relationship you build with your mentor is one of the highlights of a program like ours because you are able to ask any questions you have, and that person becomes a professional connection for you even after you complete the program. 

Another option that requires a little more leg work, is cold emailing and cold calling doctors near you. You can go to your local hospital website or search local listings to find healthcare professionals in your area. Once you have their contact information, you can either email or call and explain who you are, why you want to pursue medicine, and why you are interested in job shadowing them. 

Keep your messages brief and to the point. If you have any scheduling conflicts, like school, it’s okay to mention them right away, but make sure you emphasize that you’re willing to work with their schedule and be flexible. You may not hear back immediately, and it’s okay to send another message in a couple of weeks time. However, you should be prepared to ask someone else if they don’t respond or are unable to offer you the opportunity. 

Alternatives to medical shadowing

Shadowing a doctor allows you to gain medical experience, which is something you can find through different avenues. So if you are concerned with how to get into med school without shadowing, there are other options for you. 

Volunteering is a great addition to a medical school application. Volunteering at a hospital or clinic can give you a similar experience to shadowing, depending on your role. When you are a not a certified medical professional, your volunteering may involve more administrative tasks, but it still exposes you to working healthcare facilities and helps you understand what’s involved.

Some aspiring doctors and physicians find paid jobs to gain experience that’s similar to shadowing. Becoming a medical scribe, Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), or Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) can give you real world experience in healthcare. However, it is important to be aware that getting paid work experience usually involves significant training. There may be courses that you have to pay to take, and then once you have your certification you need to look for and apply to jobs. 

You could also take on the role of caretaker, even for a friend or family member, which can give you patient care experience and an understanding of how to deal with chronic illness.

All of these options can be really helpful for the learning experience and building your resume. However, medical shadowing remains an excellent way for untrained, aspiring healthcare professionals to get experience in a working hospital.

As the world emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, colleges and universities are changing their expectation for applicants, so it remains most important that you verify what they are asking applicants to have before you rely on any experience for your application. 

If you are worried about how to get into med school without shadowing, we hope you consider one of our programs at Global Pre-Meds. Not only can we provide frontline shadowing experience, but by observing international healthcare professionals, you can stand out from the crowd of other premed students with a more unique resume. 

You can learn more about our doctor shadowing and global health experience programs here