Shadowing a physician before you apply for premedical programs is considered the most important part of your medical school application which goes to show your prospective admissions officers that you are serious about pursuing a career in medicine and fully conscious as to what it entails. It is a thriving opportunity to learn about the trying and challenging environment of health-care settings and lets you walk in the shoes of a physician before you get your feet wet in the career. Shadowing and assisting doctors allow prospective premed students to observe how physicians handle complex cases, record patient notes and devise effective treatment plans for complicated ailments.
If truth be told, shadowing a doctor is considered an integral part of the premedical experience. Though shadowing is not a pre-requisite for medical schools, gaining ample shadowing experience before applying to a medical school can brighten up your chances of acceptance. It serves as a valuable tool that bolsters your medical school application and reaffirms that you are a perfect fit for a career in medicine, and are willing to invest your energy, time and dedication towards becoming a great physician.
By shadowing physicians prior to enrolling in premedical programs, you sell your medical school admission committees on how you have an in-depth understanding of the field you are committing to and are aware of the protracted hours, perseverance, and responsibilities that come accompanied with the field. A medical student who committed the grave mistake of not shadowing a physician before stepping into the field, may discover a few months down the road that they are not cut-out for the niche and may have to drop-out. If they had shadowed a physician sometime in their life, the truth would have dawned on them a long time ago and they could have pursued another career.
However, as important as it is, simply shadowing a physician doesn’t cut the bill alone if you are not getting the most out of it. When it comes to shadowing physicians, here are a few common mistakes that every premed student should steer clear of.
Don’t Start the Process Early
To get the shadowing opportunity you have been vying for prior to enrolling in premedical programs, premed students are counselled to plan in advance, lest they miss out on great prospects. Find local hospitals and clinics where you might be able to shadow. If you want to assist a doctor during a specific block of time, it is advised to inform them approximately a month in advance. Send an email to introduce yourself and throw in a paragraph or two to explain who you are, where you attend school, express your interest in shadowing and elucidate your aspirations of becoming a physician yourself.
If you are planning to shadow in a private clinic, an email to the practitioner fits the bill perfectly. And if you want to shadow in a significant hospital on the other hand, securing the shadowing opportunity entails tons of steps. Ask your premedical adviser, seniors, and employees at the pertinent medical center about physicians who will allow you to shadow, and glean their name, contact info, and the department they work for. Some medical centers ask you to apply for a visitor’s pass or register through a volunteer.
Planning ahead of time ensures that you gain a shadowing experience at your preferred timeslot and within your specified period, with a physician worth their salt.
Showing Non-serious Attitude
Premedical students should dress appropriately and exude a professional attitude, akin to how you would appear for a job interview. You are advised to strictly follow all hospital rules and protocols– avoid eating or drinking in patient care units, wash your hands or use a sanitizer before entering and leaving a patient’s room, and leave your phone turned off or at least on silent mode. Be punctual, dress professionally, wear closed-toe shoes, bring a notebook and a pen to jot down notes. Document your experiences so you can write a great medical school application. Also show gratitude towards nurses, physicians, and other professionals who collaborated with you and contributed to your experience.
Trust me, you can only gain the most out of shadowing experience before getting your feet wet in premedical programs if you closely observe what your mentor is doing. Since patients don’t know you, introduce yourself as a prospective medical student. Be as inconspicuous as possible. You are a guest in the room who is entailed to appear considerate of the patient. If a patient isn’t comfortable with you in the room, you must respect their feelings and leave.
Asking Questions at the Wrong Time
Premed students are advised to avoid asking patients questions unless the doctor gives them a chance. If your physician’s clinic schedule is hectic due to a copious patient volume, you should not interrupt them with unnecessary questions. If you have any questions, make notes and ask when you are safely out of earshot of the patient and at a prudent time. At this initial level, you won’t be able to understand the complexities and sensitivities of a patient’s condition so opening a pandora’s box isn’t in your best interests. However, on the other end, don’t cower in the shadows and become a silent observer as reading about diseases and asking insightful questions can truly depict your interest and enthusiasm in the profession. Also, keep in mind that in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, you cannot even mention a patient’s condition or confidential data with anyone outside your medical team, not even your significant other or your parents, or post it on social media.
Over to You
Remember, shadowing is not just a chance to learn about a field of medicine prior to enrolling in premedical programs; it’s also a fantastic opportunity to show your dedication, commitment and interest while closely working with a physician who could provide you with a letter of recommendation. It gives you an opportunity to work with myriad medical specialties.
In a nutshell, as shadowing is a great learning opportunity, you should make the most of this while investing your time, dedication and energy. Avoid committing these mistakes to learn about dealing with the challenging cases and show your commitment to medicine which will eventually brighten your chances of getting into an accredited Caribbean medical school.