Can You Get Into Med School Without Any Shadowing Experience?

Depending on where you live and your current situation, finding a physician to shadow can be challenging. Maybe now it’s time to apply and you still haven’t had the chance to shadow someone. Do people get into med school without any shadowing experience?

Yes, you can get into medical school without shadowing experience. According to the MSAR’s data, there are many applicants who matriculate without shadowing experience every year. That being said, we still highly recommend you try finding some kind of shadowing opportunity.

If you are struggling to find a physician to shadow, check out our 9 tips for finding a doctor to shadow!

In this article we will cover:

  • The importance of shadowing
  • Shadowing requirements
  • Alternatives to shadowing you could consider

How Important Is Shadowing Premed?

Even though it’s possible to get into med school without shadowing, there are still some huge benefits you are missing out on if you don’t shadow someone.

In my opinion, shadowing as a premed is important for primarily 2 reasons:

  1. It looks good on your med school application. When you shadow someone you are showing a high level of interest in the field of medicine. After all, you are spending your free time without getting paid. In addition to this, you are demonstrating to med schools that you know what you are getting yourself into.
  2. You are making sure being a doctor is the right career choice for you. You don’t want to go through 4 years of med school and 3+ extra years of residency if you aren’t positive this is the career for you. Med school is very expensive, so once you are in the goal is to stay in. Shadowing a doctor will give you valuable insight into this field to be confident in your decision.

There’s one more benefit I should mention and that is the motivation factor.

Further Reading: Getting A Letter Of Recommendation From Shadowing A Physician

When I decided to shadow a physician for the first time, I was at a crossroads in my med school journey. Part of me felt that getting into med school was unachievable so it would be better to give up and go into something else.

But that all changed when I started shadowing this particular OB/Gyn. Every time I went in I was super excited to be there. It was like I was getting a glimpse of what my life could be like one day.

This shadowing gig made me more motivated to pursue medicine than ever before. My grades shot up, I was attending more extracurriculars, and I was improving my overall application. Ultimately, I think it helped me get in.

Are Shadowing Hours Required For Medical School?

Although most medical schools strongly urge you to get shadowing experience, it is not required for getting into medical school. You could use other clinical experiences as an alternative.

U.S. News confirmed this with their interview with Dr. Edward Halperin who is the CEO of New York Medical College.

During this interview, Dr. Halperin said that other clinical experiences are completely fine. The point is to get an insight into medicine, what it’s like to treat patients, and what it’s like to be a physician.

In other words, your goal is to know what you are getting yourself into.

Some students may get more out of an experience that involves an active part in a clinical environment.

Does Shadowing Look Good On Your Medical School Application?

Even though shadowing a physician is not required for entrance into med school, it still looks very good to have it on your application.

But you don’t want to be doing it simply to check a box off.

You want to make sure your shadowing experience is valuable. Spend time researching the right field and physician to shadow.

When you find someone, do yourself a favor and block out at least 50 hours of your time for this shadowing gig. If you can, spend even more hours. I shadowed one physician for over 200 hours.

Maybe it was overkill, but this amount of time gave me complete exposure to this particular field of medicine. Because of this, I was able to get a better idea of what I was getting myself into and I was able to pull together some interesting stories.

Further Reading: 11 Essential Tips For Shadowing A Surgeon

Things You Can Do Instead Of Shadowing

If shadowing is not your thing, or you just don’t have the opportunity, there are things you can do to get similar exposure.

Here are a couple of clinical jobs that give you similar experiences to shadowing:

  1. Scribing: I’m personally a big fan of scribing. Basically, you are shadowing physicians all day long and getting paid. In addition to shadowing, you are actively taking notes on every aspect of a doctor’s visit with a patient. Therefore, you are developing a deeper understanding of the way the study of medicine is implemented in real life.
  2. CNA: As a CNA, or certified nursing assistant, you’ll have a lot more interaction with the nurse staff than physicians. In addition to this, you’ll have a lot more patient interaction. This is a very good clinical experience and can lead to opportunities that involve physician shadowing.
  3. EMT: Very similar to the CNA route but more time spent outside the medical facility. However, as an EMT you have opportunities to do hospital-to-hospital transport calls which do involve a significant amount of interaction with hospital staff.
  4. ER Tech: Usually becoming an ER tech requires experience as a CNA or EMT. ER techs get lots of opportunities to interact with physicians including assisting them with procedures.

Can I Get Into Med School Without A Lot Of Clinical Experience?

While it is possible to get into med school with less clinical experience than average, it will make it more difficult.

Unless you have some other kind of experience that really impresses medical school admission committee members. Check out our guide on finding the best extracurricular experience!

In this guide, we talk about the idea of spending a lot of time on 1 activity that you are passionate about. This can be a clinical experience but it can also be some kind of volunteer experience.

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