Sometimes it can be difficult to find a physician to shadow, so we need to come up with clever ways of finding them. We all have a primary care physician, is weird or unethical to ask him or her if you could shadow them?
It’s completely fine to shadow your own doctor! In fact, this is a very common thing for premed students to do. If you are struggling to find a physician to shadow, we definitely recommend shadowing your PCP.
That being said, it’s ultimately up to the physician and his or her office whether they can let you shadow.
Sometimes you won’t be able to shadow your own physician. However, this is not due to the fact that they are your physician but rather because their facility or practice doesn’t allow student shadowers.
Don’t psych yourself out from asking because you think it’s awkward. Countless other premed students did it and they ended up with great shadowing experiences! This is a very popular method of finding a physician to shadow.
How Do I Ask A Doctor To Shadow In Person? (Example)
When asking your own doctor, or any doctor, if you could shadow him or her in person, it’s important that you ask the right way.
It’s totally fine to ask when they are in the examination room with you. In fact, this is probably the most convenient time because outside your exam they will be really busy with other patients and paperwork.
Here is what I would ask:
Do you allow undergrads to shadow you in the office and OR (If applicable)?
That’s it, keep it nice and simple.
If they say that they do, most likely they will ask what kind of student you are and ask if you wanted to shadow them.
If for some reason the physician is uncomfortable with you shadowing him or her because you are a patient, they will simply not offer it.
Honestly, physicians are almost always happy to let you shadow them. Simply talking to them about how you are a premed student may get them to offer you a shadowing opportunity without even asking!
Can You Shadow Your Surgeon?
Yes! It is totally fine to ask to shadow your surgeon, even if they have operated on you. Surgeons tend to be very extroverted people, therefore it is even more likely that they will be all for it.
In my opinion, shadowing a surgeon is a great experience! When you observe a procedure in person, you will experience a side of medicine that is truly fascinating.
The amount of coordination, precision, and effort that goes into one surgery is quite remarkable. You will learn so much from just observing one surgery, I highly recommend it.
Be warned, chances are you will see a procedure similar to what was done on you. Keep that in mind if you are a squeamish person!
Does It Matter What Kind Of Doctor You Shadow?
If you are only shadowing one physician, it is recommended that you shadow someone in primary care. This is because medical schools know that most med students end up in primary care and they want to make sure you are not only interested in specializing. However, if you plan on shadowing multiple physicians it doesn’t matter what other specialties you observe.
Primary care refers to doctors who see patients before they are referred to anyone else. Think family doctors, OB/Gyns, and internal medicine doctors.
I know lots of premed students want to shadow unique specialties, especially surgical ones. And that’s great! Go for it, just make sure you aren’t only shadowing specialties.
How Old Do You Have To Be To Shadow A Doctor?
The ideal time to shadow a physician is during your undergrad. However, there are plenty of high school students considering the premed path that could benefit from shadowing.
Every facility will have its own rules but generally, you have to be 16 years old to shadow. I recommend not shadowing before Junior year of high school, which is about 17 years old.
Is It Okay To Shadow A Parent Who Is A Doctor?
Shadowing a parent is obviously the easiest shadowing opportunity there is.
In the eyes of medical schools, shadowing a family member is no problem. However, if you are planning on getting a letter of recommendation, that is an issue.
Letters of recommendation from family members are no good. If you receive a letter of recommendation from your parents or siblings, they are obligated to write nice things about you and medical schools know this.
So if you are looking to see some cool things and obtain more clinical experience, shadowing a family member is great. If you are seeking a letter of recommendation, look for someone unrelated.
Shadowing is an important part of your medical school application. I’ve spoken to plenty of premed students who struggled to find someone to shadow. Sometimes the opportunities are not out there!
The easiest way to shadow a physician is to shadow a family member or friend. The second easiest way is to ask your own doctor. If neither of these is an option, you will need to cold call or email physicians which is not as easy but still very possible!
Further Reading: How To Ask To Shadow A Doctor With An Email
Most students would prefer not to cold call physicians which I totally understand. A lot of us also don’t have family members who are physicians. But the majority of us do have a primary care doctor we visit from time to time. See what happens when you ask him or her if you can shadow them! I guarantee that you won’t regret it.