Is shadowing considered clinical experience?

May 3, 2021

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

Click here for 2021 shadowing opportunities

Given the number of requirements for premed students, some have asked: is shadowing considered clinical experience? The confusion often comes from schools listing areas for students to write down their shadowing experience and clinical experience on their applications. 

Shadowing is not considered clinical experience because it is usually hands-off, and observational only. However, shadowing allows prospective med students to get clinical exposure so that they know what to expect from a career in medicine. 

In this article, we will explain the differences between the clinical experience and shadowing, as well as how to find the right experiences to enhance your medical school application.

Clinical Experience vs Shadowing 

For aspiring doctors specifically, most medical schools do not require that students have clinical experience. They may not even require that you have shadowing, although it is highly recommended that you do. 

The reason most schools don’t require clinical experience is because that means finding opportunities for hands-on patient interaction, and since you are not yet a medical professional it can be challenging to find ethical opportunities.

That is not to say that there aren’t ways for premed students to find hands-on clinical experience, but just know that when you are listing those on your applications, they should refer to experiences that were more involved than shadowing a doctor.

So if you’re wondering if shadowing is considered clinical experience, be aware that shadowing at a hospital is usually observational. The goal is to learn on the frontlines of hospitals and clinics by watching doctors during their work day. You are not there to assist with patient care or perform any medical procedures

Shadowing helps you when you are early in your career, and you want to make sure medicine is the right path for you. Shadowing a doctor can also help you decide if there’s a specialty you might be interested in and want to learn more about.

Clinical experience is great when you have already been trained and want to get more real life experience with patients. Physician assistant programs, for example, often require that applicants have a significant amount of clinical experience before they can apply.

You want to make sure you have fulfilled all your prerequisites for any school or program you’ll be applying to. If you can find ways to make those experiences stand out when compared to other applicants, that’s even better.

At Global Pre-Meds, we provide hospital doctor shadowing and global health experience programs that can help students get real world experience on the frontlines in a safe and controlled way. While every student will have shadowed a doctor, not every premed student will have international healthcare experience as well. 

How to find a doctor to shadow

Hospital doctor shadowing is a great way to get some clinical exposure before committing to a career in healthcare.

You can find a doctor to shadow by asking people you know in the healthcare field. Some students even ask their own doctor if they can shadow them or if they have connections they can utilize. 

You can also check with your local hospital or clinic and ask if they have a shadowing program. Curated programs, like ours at Global Pre-Meds, can help you find great placements with mentoring doctors who are excited to teach students. 

You can also reach out to your school advisors, who likely have several people to connect you with, that will help you build your application. There are also health clubs, like HOSA – Future Health Professionals, that can help you find resume building and networking opportunities.

If you have tried all of these other options, you can start reaching out to doctors and healthcare professionals independently and ask if you’d be able to shadow them. 

How to find clinical experience

Finding hands-on clinical experience can be more challenging than finding a doctor to shadow. However, you can gain clinical experience through hospital volunteering or even paid work experiences.

Even if you are not trained, hospitals often need volunteers to help with administration, clinical experience, mail delivery, and many other roles that contribute to patient care. This can be a great option for premed students who are early in their career but still want to add medical experience to their resume. 

There are many jobs that you can train and apply for if you are in need of clinical experience. You could become an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), or a medical scribe. These are all jobs that would provide you hands-on patient care experience, but they do require a significant amount of training beforehand, and then you have to locate and apply for those jobs.

Some students also help with family members who need care for long term illnesses, or at a facility for elderly care. These experiences also count as clinical experience because you’re directly involved with patients.

When you are filling out an application to a program that requires hours for different categories, make sure you do not double-dip. For example, if you need shadowing hours and clinical experience hours, you should not use one experience for both categories. 

If you’re a premed student and wondering if shadowing is considered clinical experience, you may be interested in getting some amazing shadowing experience on hospital frontlines with us. You can learn more about our programs here