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Will medical schools accept virtual shadowing?

December 22, 2020

In the wake of the covid-19 pandemic, virtual shadowing has become a new reality for many pre-med and pre-health students who are looking for clinical experience. It is difficult to find hospitals and doctors who will allow students – or any unnecessary personnel – at their facility.

But an important question that students are asking is will medical schools accept virtual shadowing

The answer is yes, the majority of medical schools have adjusted their requirements and are considering virtual shadowing as a valid option. However, there are some important things to consider when approaching this option. Whether you are interested in becoming a doctor, physician assitant, nurse, or midwife, you want to get the best doctor shadowing experience before you commit to a medical program. 

We can help you get a safe, in-person doctor shadowing experience on the frontlines of international hospitals and clinics. Our global health programs offer students unique insight into the world of healthcare, which has become especially poignant during the pandemic. You can read more about our enhanced safety protocols here

In the meantime, for your information we have discussed whether or not medical schools will accept your virtual shadowing hours and explore some other questions to ask yourself if you wish to pursue this option. 

Do virtual shadowing hours fulfill medical school requirements?

Many students are concerned about virtual shadowing counting towards prerequisites for medical school or other healthcare programs. 

Most schools have adjusted their terms of admittance due to the challenges of covid-19. If you go to the school or program website, many of them have added pages dedicated to answering questions regarding admittance during the coronavirus pandemic. These terms are subject to change, so it’s important to regularly check back or sign up for their email announcements so you can always be up to date. 

As far as shadowing hours are concerned, most university programs understand that it has become difficult to find in-person clinical experiences like shadowing a doctor or volunteering. Some schools do not specifically require students to have shadowing hours, making this a non-issue for some.

However, some programs still require that their applicants have some healthcare related experience, whether they specify the number of hours or not. In this case, many schools have changed their terms and are now accepting virtual shadowing or other online experiences to count towards a student’s clinical hours.

For example, the University of Washington’s School of Medicine has said that while they have never required a specific number of doctor shadowing hours, they will now accept online or virtual shadowing hours as clinical experience

Each school is making their own decisions regarding admissions during covid so it is imperative that you check with each of them. Do not assume what is okay with one school will be accepted by another. 

Is virtual shadowing an effective option to shadow a doctor? 

The UW School of Medicine said it best, “The Admissions Committee has always valued the insight and reflection that applicants gain from their experiences rather than the number of hours.”

One virtual shadowing experience may be better than the others. Ultimately, it is about what you gain from the experience. 

Shadowing a doctor is without a doubt more about the experience you get, than the hours you accumulate. One student may shadow ten doctors for a few hours each, but that is not necessarily a better option than someone who shadows the same doctor for a week. 

When it comes to shadowing a doctor or another healthcare professional, your goal is to understand what they do, their work/life balance, how they work with others in the facility, and how they handle patients. You want to see a range of experiences with the same healthcare professional so that you can understand what their life is like. 

You observe a doctor to decide if this profession is right for you and to begin building your understanding of patient care. This is also an opportunity for you to create connections with other healthcare professionals who can serve as references for you in the future. 

That being said, it is important to try and find shadowing programs and opportunities that fit these goals. Many of the virtual shadowing opportunities have free tuition, which means you could do several of them and try and get the most information you can.

Ask the universities or programs you are interested in to see if they have recommendations for shadowing and clinical experience hours. Some have started offering some of their own online shadowing courses

If you are shadowing virtually, you can access doctors in different specialities who will guest lecture and talk about their most interesting cases. You are able to stay in the comfort of your own home, which has its benefits and mitigates risk.

However, job shadowing online is not the same as shadowing on the frontlines of a hospital. You don’t get to build a relationship with your mentor, or get a real feel for what it’s like to be working in a healthcare facility. It’s hard to see a range of medical cases and a typical work day when you are shadowing from home. 

That’s why we are determined to provide safe in-person shadowing programs for pre-health and pre-med students. We provide you and your mentoring doctors with American standard PPE, and you are able to stay in a socially distanced pod while you are on the program, rather than going back to your loved ones after a shift on the frontlines. Our doctor shadowing programs abroad provide you with a global health perspective that we know now, more than ever, is essential to healthcare professionals.

Our programs are curated down to every detail, so that for a one-time program fee, everything is taken care of and you can focus on getting the most out of your experience. We handpick medical doctors to serve as your mentor and pair you with the one who fits your interests best. We have students who want to be doctors, physician assistants, midwives, and nurses and are looking to explore healthcare at an international level

If you want to make sure you’re getting the best experience possible, so that you can confidently pursue your career in healthcare, consider joining us in Tanzania or the Dominican Republic. Check out our program dates here