What to wear to shadow a doctor

May 6, 2021

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

Click here for 2021 shadowing opportunities

If you are a premed or prehealth student looking for clinical observation experience, you may be wondering what to wear to shadow a doctor. You want to be professional, comfortable, and ready for anything when you are in a clinical setting.

We understand the importance of shadowing a physician as part of your education. We provide opportunities for students to gain real life experience on international hospital frontlines so that you can start your journey to becoming a successful healthcare professional.

In this article, we will explain how to dress and prepare for your clinical shadowing opportunity.

What to wear for your doctor shadowing opportunity 

The first thing to consider if you are wondering what to wear to shadow a doctor, is what setting you will be observing in. Some students will shadow a doctor in family practice or clinic, others may be watching a surgeon in the operating room. This will factor into your choice of dress.

If you are shadowing in a clinic or a non-surgical setting, you should dress in business attire. It’s a good idea to think about what you may wear to a job or interview. You want to dress modestly, covering your shoulders and anything above the knee. You can wear a skirt or dress slacks, paired with a collared or otherwise professional shirt /blouse.

You also want to wear shoes that are closed toe for safety reasons and are also comfortable. You may be on your feet for long periods of time, and you’ll want to be able to keep up with the physician. High heeled shoes are not recommended.

If you are planning on shadowing a surgeon or in the operating room, you may have to wear sterile medical scrubs. In most cases, you will change into your scrubs when you arrive at the hospital. If you know scrubs will be expected, it is still best to wear your professional wear to the hospital and change on arrival.

Some students are unsure of what they will be doing during their shadowing hours. If you have any questions, you can always email the doctor beforehand and ask if you should bring scrubs. You can also ask if there are locker rooms or a place for you to store some personal items, like keys or a water bottle.

At Global Pre-Meds, we provide our students with their own branded medical scrubs and full, professional standard Personal Protective Equipment. One of the benefits of curated shadowing programs like ours is that we take care of everything.

From the moment you submit your application, our staff is there to help you through the process and get you to your placement. When you arrive, our local staff team picks you up at the airport to take you to the beautiful Global Pre-Meds house, which is your home away from home. And you will always have our Student Coordinators and mentoring doctors to guide you through your two-week program and keep you safe. If you ever have any questions, we are there for you.

 Other considerations for hospital shadowing

Aside from what to wear to shadow a doctor, there are some other things you should consider before your first day. A little preparation can help you make a good impression, which is especially important because the doctors you shadow can serve as your references in the future.

Make sure you know exactly where you are supposed to meet your mentor, and where you can park or be dropped off. Arrive early, especially on your first day in case you have any issues getting to your meeting spot.

As mentioned earlier, it’s helpful to ask if there will be any lockers or storage available to you to keep a light snack, water bottle, and anything else you may want to bring. You should always eat something before you go and consider how long you will be there for any other sustenance you might want to bring. If there are no locker rooms, you may be able to keep something in your car.

We also recommend that you bring a notebook and pen. You can make notes of the dates and hours you are shadowing, as well as what kinds of medical cases you are observing. This can help you when you are writing your application and personal statement in the future. You can also write down any questions you have before your first day, or any that come up as you observe.

You don’t want to ask questions when a doctor is in the middle of treating a patient. Wait until there’s a free moment between cases. If a patient speaks to you, be kind and professional, and do not dispense any medical advice or information. Shadowing is an observational opportunity, and you should not perform any procedures or dispense advice when you are not a trained professional.

HIPAA laws are also very strict to keep patient confidentiality. Your mentoring doctor will explain all the rules and regulations for the healthcare facility, including HIPAA. You  may even have to sign a confidentiality agreement before you begin shadowing.

All these considerations, along with what to wear to shadow a doctor, can help you develop a positive relationship with your mentor. Each opportunity you receive is a connection that can benefit you down the road.

At the end of your shadowing hours with a doctor, you should send them a handwritten thank you note in consideration of their time. This also helps make a professional impression on them so that you may ask for a letter of recommendation in the future.

On our hospital doctor shadowing program in the Dominican Republic, your mentoring doctor will get to know you over the two-weeks and 40+ hours of shadowing, so that they can write you a personal letter of recommendation when you complete the program. This is an honest reflection of you and your ability to become a healthcare professional.

If you are wondering how to prepare to shadow a doctor or are feeling unsure about the experience, we hope you consider one of our Global Pre-Meds programs. You can learn more about our programs here.