“Things take time, so just be patient”
Aside from classes, getting clinical experience has probably been the hardest thing for me so far. Despite completing a medical assistant program, I don’t have any certifications/ licenses. But even if I did, I’m not sure that I would even have the time to actually use them, but I digress. The point is, a few months ago I had very little to no relevant clinical or shadowing experience. This bothered me because it made me feel like I was behind. Being that I was already knee-deep in other obligations, it didn’t seem like I would ever get the chance to get it in any time soon.
Needless to say, I kind of panicked and started my search as soon as I realized this. I sent a few emails and only one provider responded. After what seemed like a long prep process, I finally got to shadow a physician. Today, I’m sharing some tips that will hopefully help you get some shadowing experience as well.
Start at Home
Sometimes it’s all in who you know. Start by asking physicians that you know if they’d let you shadow them. Even if it’s just a one-time thing, it could always open the door for more opportunities. Also, if you volunteer in a healthcare setting, maybe ask one of the physicians there. I will say, you might have a better shot if you’ve been there for a little while. The worst that could happen is you ending up in the same boat that you were in, to begin with, so go for it!
Pick Up The Phone
In this day in time, people don’t like to talk on the phone. I get it, I’m the same way. However, this will probably be one of the quickest ways to set up a shadowing opportunity. You’re going to get either a “yes” or a “no”. I suggest you look up the numbers of about 5 physicians/doctors’ offices. Introduce yourself to the receptionist and ask if the physician(s) there would be open to allowing you to shadow there. Many will just straight up tell you no, which might feel like a jab to your self-esteem, but it’ll be okay. Once you get through those 5, then pick another 5. The key here is persistence.
Send Some Emails
I looked up some providers at my nearest health system who specialized in a field that I’m interested in and I emailed all of them. I think I sent at least a dozen emails. After a day or two, one of the doctors got back to me. For those of us that are a bit timid, this might be the best way to ask to shadow someone. You have a much better chance of receiving a silent rejection than a cold email. You don’t have to worry about dropping the ball on the phone as you’ll be able to proofread your email.
My Email said something like:My name is [first and last name] and I am a rising [grade/classification] at [insert school]. I’m pursuing a degree in Sociology with a minor in Chemistry and I am currently on the Pre-Medicine advising track. I read in your profile that you specialize in [doc’s specialty]. So far, I have spent my Summer vacation interning [insert relevant experience]. I would like to learn more about [something about the specialty that interests you], so I’d be incredibly grateful if you allowed me to shadow you.I am available on [availability].Thank you!
Check With Your Advisor/Career Services
Many schools have a shadowing program set up for their premed students– lucky! Be sure to see if your school is one of them before you do any of the above. There are also those schools that have a directory full of alumni/other docs that will let you come shadow them. So go and check with your advisors or career services, you’ll never know unless you ask.
The AAMC has an article that lists things that you can do as an alternative to shadowing. Check it out here: link
As with everything that has to do with being premed, gaining shadowing experience will probably be a long process. You’re going to hear a bunch of no’s before you finally get that, yes, but this is really just a part of the process. I hope you got something out of today’s post and good luck!