What Should Your Wear When Shadowing A Doctor?

So you have finally found a doctor who is willing to let you shadow him or her and you have no clue what to wear. Before I shadowed a physician for the first time, I also had no idea what to wear. It was a completely new experience for me to be in a clinical environment without being a patient.

My initial thoughts were that I wanted to look like a medical professional while in the room with the physician and patient instead of looking like some random bystander.

This was especially important because my first shadowing experience was with an OB/Gyn doctor. I didn’t want the patients to feel uncomfortable in these particular private kinds of doctor visits.

I thought scrubs would be fine because then it would be clear that I was part of the staff. But, scrubs don’t look professional and I wanted to impress the doctor.

In the end, what I wore was fine and I probably over-thought it.

If this is something you struggle with, keep reading because I use my own experience and the experiences of other premed students to cover every question you might have on the topic of what to wear when shadowing a doctor.

Business Casual Is Usually A Safe Bet When Shadowing A Physician

When in doubt, just go business casual. No matter what setting you shadow in, you can’t go wrong with business casual. 

During my post bacc program, we were required to do a preceptorship with a physician. This is just another word for shadowing a physician. The program directors went over how you should dress during the preceptorship. 

What did they advise us to wear? Yup, business casual. 

For those of you who need a refresher on the definition of business casual, here is a simple guide:

Males:

  • Button shirt, tie (optional), sweater (optional)
  • Chinos or dress slacks
  • Belt
  • Dress shoes and dark socks

Females: 

  • Twinsets, polo/knit shirts, blouse, cardigans, sweaters
  • Dress slacks or conservative length skirt
  • Closed-toe shoes

Additionally, for both males and females you want to make sure you are wearing traditional solid colors and nothing bold. Males should also be mindful of their hair. If it’s falling in front of your eyes, get a haircut before you shadow. 

Generally speaking, you want to dress conservatively when shadowing a doctor. While there is no problem expressing yourself in a normal setting, in a shadowing environment a bold/eccentric appearance won’t be taken favorably by the physician. 

What Shoes Should You Wear When Shadowing A Doctor?

brown shoes

I briefly went over what kind of shoes you should wear in the previous section. Dress shoes for men and closed-toed shoes for ladies.

However, it’s also important to note that comfortable shoes are important.

Trust me, when shadowing a doctor you will spend a lot of time on your feet. The doctor you are shadowing may have a stool to sit on but you can bet that you will be standing.

I can tell you from experience that you will regret not wearing comfortable shoes after shadowing for 8 hours.

Females should think twice about wearing heels, flats are probably a better option. Think about how heels will feel after standing for hours observing a surgery.

What To Wear When Shadowing A Doctor In A Hospital

In a clinical setting, it is easy to see how dressing business casual is appropriate. But what about in a hospital setting like an emergency room or operating room?

Do you wear scrubs while shadowing in a hospital?

Business casual is still the recommended option. When you observe a surgery you will have to wear scrubs, however, you can change in the hospital’s locker room when it’s time for the surgery. Every hospital will have scrubs for you to wear.

emergency room shadowing

The ER can be a different story. From my experience when I worked as an ER scribe, everyone wore scrubs including students who came to shadow. This is the one exception to my business casual rule, wear your scrubs when shadowing an ER doctor.

Can I Wear Jeans To Shadow A Doctor?

No. Do not wear jeans when you go shadow a physician. 

If you are shadowing for a while in a private clinic and you get a very casual vibe from the doctor, then you could ask if it’s okay. But trust me, there are very few circumstances that this will happen.

I love jeans as much as the next guy, but in the professional medical environment, it’s a no-go. 

Ask The Doctor You Are Shadowing What You Should Wear

The common consensus in the medical community when shadowing a physician is to wear business casual. 

However, every doctor is different. Some are more strict with the dress code while others are laxer. Business casual will be a safe option but if you ask the doctor you are shadowing ahead of time you may end up getting to wear something more comfortable. 

A common alternative that some doctors may be fine with is just wearing solid color scrubs. One of the doctors I shadowed was fine with this option because that was what the scribe would wear and therefore I just looked like another scribe or a scribe in training. 

It never hurts to ask. But I get it that some people rather not bother the physician so they come to resources like us to ask these questions. 

When in doubt, go business casual. 

What Should High School Students Wear When Shadowing A Doctor?

First of all, if you are a high school student who scored a shadowing opportunity, that’s awesome! The sooner you can get that clinical exposure and determine if this field is for you the better. 

How should high school students dress when they are shadowing a physician? The same answer, go with business casual. Unless you are shadowing through a school program. In that case, find out from your school what you should wear. Your high school may have its standards such as a uniform. 

Conclusion: How Should You Dress While Shadowing A Physician?

doctors performing surgery

To summarize, if you had no specific instructions on what to wear, dress business casual. 

After you start shadowing you will quickly get the dress code vibe from the physician. If you see the physician wearing scrubs feel free to ask if you can wear scrubs on your next visit. 

One summer I shadowed a physician who gave me one of his white coats so I would look less out of place. 

It’s fine to change how you dress as you shadow longer at one location but it is not a good idea to show up underdressed on your first day and leave a bad impression. 

Leave a Comment