There are so many different career paths you can pursue as a doctor. Because of this, it makes sense that premed students want to get out there and shadow as many doctors as possible.
On the other hand, a premed student’s schedule is very busy so I can understand how some students just want to shadow the minimum number of physicians as possible.
How Many Doctors Should I Shadow?
As long as you shadow at least one physician in primary care you have satisfied the shadowing requirement. Shadowing more doctors will do little to nothing for your application in terms of being competitive but could still benefit you individually. Going to medical school is a big commitment so there is no harm in getting more exposure before officially committing.
We went to the premed community for more opinions on this matter and it seems that the majority of students agree that shadowing around 2 physicians is ideal.
There is no harm in shadowing more than 2 physicians outside of the fact that it’s time-consuming. But if you can do it, go for it. Shadowing can be a lot of fun and motivational.
By the way, if you are new to shadowing, I highly recommend you check out our complete guide on shadowing a physician.
Is it better to shadow one or two physicians many times or many different physicians once?
You don’t want to shadow a physician for only one day. It’s much better to shadow a few physicians for longer periods of time. The main reason is that you can’t really get a good feel for a career based on one day.
Especially when it comes to doctors.
A physician’s job changes day to day, you want to make sure you are getting a broader picture of the specific specialty you are shadowing so that you have a better understanding of the pros and cons.
Does It Matter What Kind Of Doctor You Shadow?
To medical schools, it does matter what kind of doctor you shadow.
The majority of healthcare is in primary care. We know that the primary goal for shadowing is to understand what you are getting yourself into. Therefore, it stands to reason that medical schools would like to see primary care shadowing because chances are you will be practicing in some form of primary care later in your career.
That’s not to say that you won’t pursue some kind of specialized medicine (Like Orthopedic surgery) after you get into medical school, but you need to look at it from the eyes of the admission committee members. They see the majority of students match into primary care residencies, so it is a red flag if you are pigeonholing yourself into a rare specialty right off the bat. To them, you are being unrealistic and could ultimately be disappointed with your career.
Although it’s fun to shadow a surgeon in the OR, you don’t want that kind of shadowing experience in place of primary care physicians.
We highly recommend you shadow a primary care physician at some point.
How Many Medical Specialties Should I Shadow?
As long as you shadow a primary care physician, it doesn’t matter how many medical specialties you shadow. If you plan on shadowing additional specialties, I recommend shadowing whatever interests you.
I believe that motivation is key to getting into medical school. You need a strong drive to push you through all those long days of studying. Spending some time shadowing a fascinating field of medicine could fuel that desire.
What Counts As A Primary Care Physician?
I’ve told you that shadowing a primary care physician is highly recommended before medical school, but what exactly counts as primary care?
Nowadays primary care includes family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, OB/Gyn, and sometimes even psychiatry. Basically, any kind of physician that would see you first before referring you to a specialist would be a primary care physician.
How Long Do You Shadow A Doctor?
Generally speaking, you want to shadow one doctor for about 50 hours.
This can be over the period of 1 to 2 weeks or a couple of months. You want to do 50 hours because that will give you enough time to receive a good amount of exposure on the specialty you are shadowing.
Also, if you wanted to ask for a letter of recommendation, you are more likely going to receive a better one if you shadowed for a solid period of time.
So, How Many Different Doctors Should You Shadow?
I still recommend shadowing multiple physicians. Yes, medical schools aren’t too concerned about how many physicians you shadow, however, there are other benefits beyond your medical school application strength.
More shadowing experiences with different specialties can narrow your decision regarding what kind of medicine you want to practice so that you can enter medical school with a goal in mind.
Also, shadowing more physicians can lead to networking opportunities for medical school as well as your future career.
And finally, shadowing can be highly motivational, and sometimes it’s worth it to shadow a doctor specifically because it’s something you are interested in rather than checking a box for medical school.