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How to shadow a doctor in high school

September 4, 2020

We know many students are wondering about the path from high school to medical school. Shadowing a doctor is one of the best ways to begin that path and find out if medicine is right for you.

At Global Pre-Meds, we provide doctor shadowing opportunities abroad for pre-med students. This frontline hospital experience is crucial to understanding the day-to-day life of a physician. But how do you shadow a doctor as a high school student?

Finding a doctor to shadow

The first thing you have to do is identify a doctor to shadow. Maybe you’re already interested in nursing or midwifery, or maybe your goal is to be a physician’s assistant. If you have a special interest you can always try to find someone to shadow who is already in that role.

If you’re not sure about a medical specialty that’s okay too! Stick with trying to find a shadowing opportunity where you will see a variety of clinical procedures in the hospital.

There are many ways you can try to find a mentoring doctor. You could start by asking your advisor at school. If you have a career center, there may be someone there who can help connect you with a doctor, hospital, or clinical observation program.

Another way pre-health students find medical observation hours is by contacting a healthcare worker they already know. This could be your own family doctor, a family friend who is a medical professional, or perhaps a friend’s parents are doctors. You can utilize those connections to find an opportunity.

You could also contact a hospital near you directly and ask if they allow students to shadow. If you know the name of a doctor in that hospital you can try to find contact information for them and send them an email. We have more information about how to ask to shadow a doctor here.

All of these options take some time, so it’s important to start researching a hospital shadowing opportunity early! If you plan to shadow a doctor over the summer or spring break, you should start making contacts well before that.

The easiest way to find a doctor is through planned programs like Global Pre-Meds! All you have to do is apply and you have access to an engaging mentoring doctor on hospital frontlines. We have programs in the spring, summer and winter!

Our program also offers a unique, global health perspective, which you won’t necessarily see at your local hospital. You get to travel to another part of the world, enjoying the food and the sights, all while you are getting your clinical observation hours for medical school.

Plan and prepare

When you do find your hospital shadowing program, make sure you plan ahead. Figure out when the doctor will be available for you to come and observe. You will have to be flexible and work around the physician’s schedule.

In addition, if you are shadowing at a local hospital, consider how you will work around your school schedule. You should be on time to every shift, which means thinking about your transportation to and from the hospital.

Shadowing a doctor is a professional experience. It’s important to treat the opportunity as a professional. Dress appropriately, be on time, and listen to your mentor! They will give you the chance to ask your questions, so make sure you’re not interrupting their work while you are there.

If you shadow a doctor through our Global Pre-Meds program, you will be getting your hours during school breaks and you will be able to give your undivided attention to this one of kind experience. You live at the Global Pre-Meds house with your peers where you have your meals prepared by our chef, and you are driven to and from the hospital by our staff. We are also responsible for everything!

Before you start your observation hours at the hospital, think about questions to ask while shadowing the doctor, nurse, or physician. This is the chance for you to get an understanding for what it’s like to be a healthcare professional!

Get the most out of your medical shadowing

Even as a high school student, you can start gaining medical experience. You should record those experiences to help make your medical school application stand out.

Bring a notebook and take notes of what cases you observe on each shift. You can also use this to write down any questions that may come to mind that you want to ask your mentoring doctor later. You should also note the dates and times of all of your hours. You’ll want to have a record of them to show medical schools that you’ve been getting that frontline hospital experience.

You’ll also want to ask for a reference from the physician you are shadowing. Professional references help show pre-med programs that you’ve not only been getting your hours, but that another medical professional can see that you have a future in health care.

At Global Pre-Meds, we provide you with a certificate upon completion of the program, as well as a reference that verifies your hours. If you choose one of our two-week programs, you also get a personal reference letter from your mentoring doctor. References are so important for your pre-health education and medical career!

Medical school requirements are different depending on the program. If you have your eyes on a particular university, it’s a good idea to see what they ask their pre-med students to have in terms of medical shadowing hours.

You may want to get a variety of experiences, while making sure you spend a good amount of hours with each doctor you shadow. To get a better understanding of life as a physician, you should spend a considerable amount of time with one doctor.

When it comes to diversifying your experiences and shadowing hours, Global Pre-Meds might be helpful to you. Most students have opportunities to shadow at hospitals near them or the universities they will attend. Not every pre-med student gets the chance to see international healthcare and learn from the doctors in those hospitals.

It’s not too early to start shadowing a doctor in high school! You can learn more about our programs for high school students here.