Can a high school student shadow a doctor?

December 28, 2020

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

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It’s never too early to start job shadowing and exploring your options, especially if you are a high school student interested in medicine. You may be wondering, can a high school student shadow a doctor? 

The answer is yes, if you are in high school there are opportunities to shadow doctors at a hospital or clinic. Each healthcare facility has the right to institute their own rules, but most programs will allow students who are at least 16 years of age to shadow a willing doctor or surgeon

Our program offers a dedicated session for high school students, so that you can experience the frontlines of an international hospital and explore a new country, with age appropriate supervision. 

Job shadowing for high school students is an important step to understanding what kind of career and lifestyle you want to have in the future. We want to help you embark on your journey to a successful career in healthcare.

What age can you shadow a doctor?

If you would like to job shadow at a hospital, you must treat the experience with the respect and maturity it deserves. This is why many healthcare facilities who offer doctor shadowing programs have age minimums for participants. 

While you should always check with the specific programs, the general rule is that if you are at least 16 years of age, you will be eligible to shadow. More specifically, if you are 14 years of age you will be allowed to shadow a physician, but you may not be allowed in the emergency department or to observe surgeries – those areas are limited to those who are over 16 years of age. 

That’s why our high school doctor shadowing program also requires you to be at least 16 years of age. We safely put students on the frontlines of international hospitals to observe medical cases and surgeries of all kinds. To ensure that safety we must have students who are old enough to understand the responsibility of being at a professional working hospital. We also ask for references from a teacher or advisor. We want only the best, highly motivated students on our program.

Shadowing a doctor under age 18 

If you are a minor (under 18), it may be harder for you to find doctor shadowing opportunities, depending on where you live. In the United States, the federal government has passed HIPAA laws to protect patients’ privacy and safety, which means limiting the number of people who have access to their personal medical information. If you are under 18, the hospital has a higher level of responsibility and thus liability for any potential issues. 

While we accept students who are under 18, we have our own strict set of ethics, health, and safety procedures we employ so we can protect all parties who are involved with our Global Pre-Meds programs

Our first rule is that our program is strictly observational. There is no physical contact between students and patients. This protects our students, patients, and the mentoring doctors and hospitals. 

We partner with hospitals that we know will provide the best setting for a doctor shadowing experience. We then handpick mentors who are the most professional and will serve as the best role models and mentors for you. They are eager to share their knowledge, answer your questions, and keep you safe. We train every individual who is part of the Global Pre-Meds program so that we can keep our standards high no matter which program or country you choose. 

Our high school program, which is suitable for students who are 16 to 18 years of age, provides exactly the same experience as our over 18 program. You still get to observe all the same cases and surgeries as you would in the other program. The only difference is that even during your free time, you will have a staff member with you to ensure your safety at all times. 

How to find a doctor to shadow in high school 

Use your personal connections to find a doctor to shadow. We always recommend that you ask your family physician and anyone that you know first. Given that you’re younger, you’ll have a higher chance of finding the right opportunity if the physician knows you already, or you have someone who can vouch for you. 

If you do not know anyone in healthcare, you will have to cold call or email different healthcare professionals and ask if they allow high school students to shadow them. This can take some time so it is best to start early, especially if you are planning on shadowing over your school break

You should consider what your availability is, including any school or work you already have, and be prepared to share that availability and be flexible. The doctor is doing you a favor so you will want to be respectful and willing to adjust. 

Our program is a great opportunity because all you have to do is apply and you know you will be getting an amazing experience. Your one-time program fee pays for your freshly prepared meals, transportation in the country, and a beautiful student guesthouse, which we own and operate. You know you have a 24/7 support team in place, as well as wonderful mentors to guide you through your two-week program. We offer programs throughout the year, during spring, summer, and winter breaks. 

By getting global health experience at an international hospital, you will be learning more than you would at home. The cases you observe will be common for the country, but likely unique to what your local hospital handles. Our mentors will ensure that you observe a good balance of cases and guide you towards ones that you are interested in. These one of a kind experiences are what can help you stand out from the crowd as you apply to college or medical programs you are interested in. Many of our students head to school having observed a lot more than the average high school student.

If you are in high school and would like to get doctor shadowing experience, please consider one of our programs. You can find all the information here.