Finding and Making the Most of Physician Shadowing
Shadowing is directly observing the physician-patient interaction, and is a passive learning experience for the student. The student is simply watching, observing, and learning. Working or volunteering in a medical setting where the student has responsibilities and interactions with patients is important and valued, but this is not physician shadowing. Shadowing is an important part of learning what being a doctor is like. It is a ‘test drive’ to consider a future career. It is also a factor that medical schools consider when making decisions about who to admit. Does the candidate have the understanding about what a medical career is like? Most US medical schools require, or significantly prefer, that applicants shadow physicians in the United States.
As an aspiring medical student, it is your responsibility to make the initial contact with the physician. Practices, hospitals, and clinics have different regulations for having observers in the room with the doctor and the patient. It is your responsibility to find out and understand what these are in order to meet them. It is strongly recommended that you shadow many different physicians, different specialties, and in different settings. This will give you a better perspective of ‘what doctors do’.
How much shadowing is required or expected will vary according to different medical schools. We suggest a minimum of 50 hours of shadowing. 70-80 hours will provide what most schools view to be a very solid exposure and understanding. Top applicants typically have 100 hours or more of shadowing.
Informal Methods of Shadowing
The best source to initiate shadowing is with doctors you or your family already know, or have a connection to.
1) Physicians that have provided care to you or your family members.
2) Is there a physician in your ward or stake? Asking ‘Brother’ or ‘Sister’ Smith about shadowing is likely to be easier and more effective than contacting ‘Dr.’ Smith.
3) Do you have extended family members in Utah County or Salt Lake? Ask for contact info for physicians or physicians they know. Doctors are more likely to say yes to the relative of a patient, than another ‘random BYU pre-med’.
4) Ask local ward/stake leadership. There may be a physician in the leadership of your YSA or married student ward (Bishopric, stake presidency, stake high council). If not, it is very likely that some of them may know a physician in their home ward or stake. Use those church connections!
5) Don’t shadow physicians that are relatives. However, they can certainly facilitate shadowing opportunities with other physicians.
Formal Shadowing Opportunities
You may also want to consider reaching out to various medical facilities to seek shadowing experiences. Many facilities may require that you complete an application prior to shadowing. You may need to complete a background check and/or drug screen. Your immunizations and flu shot will need to be up-to-date. You will likely be required to sign a HIPAA form indicating that you understand and will respect patient privacy and confidentiality.
Revere Health: To complete an application and HIPAA confidentiality form, you will need to visit the site in person.
Revere Health - Provo Campus
South entrance of Bldg B
1050 N. 500 West
Revere Heath – American Fork Campus
1175 E 50 South
American Fork, UTM-F: 9:00am-4:00pm
The South/Central Utah area includes Utah Valley Hospital, Orem Community Hospital, and American Fork Hospital.
South/Central Utah requires that the student first acquire approval from a specific physician. There is a ‘find a doctor link” on ihc.org, which will provide contact info to reach out to physicians of various specialties. Once that physician approval is obtained, then contact Tiffany Clawson at 801-357-3437 to make the actual shadowing arrangements for any of the three IHC hospitals in Utah County.
The Urban Central area includes LDS Hospital, Intermountain Medical Center (Murray, Frontrunner stop next to IMC parking lot), TOSH (The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital, Murray), Riverton Hospital, Alta View Hospital (Sandy), Heber Valley Hospital.
Similar to the IHC South/Central region, the IHC Urban Central area requires that the student first acquire approval from a specific physician. There is a ‘find a doctor link” on ihc.org, which will provide contact info to reach out to physicians of various specialties. Once that physician approval is obtained, then send an email to email@example.com to request a shadowing experience at one of the IHC hospitals in the Salt Lake City area.
University of Utah Health (SLC)
Student shadowing experiences in primary care and urgent care.
Maximum of 8 hours/year
(Shadowing may be temporarily suspended during peak flu season)
Info at: uofuhealth.utah.edu/uumg/community-physician-group/student-shadowing.php
St. Mark’s Hospital (SLC)
Must complete required observer documentation
Must have a sponsor (St. Mark’s physician or employee willing to allow you to shadow their clinical practice. St. Mark’s will not make these arrangements on observer’s behalf.)
Placement coordinator – Laura Jones firstname.lastname@example.org
Primary Children’s Hospital
Shadowing will only be permitted if it is a requirement of a college class or program, and proof of requirement must be shown. Students are required to get approval from a specific physician in order to shadow that physician.
Student Placement Coordinator - Lindsay Ward
BYU Student Health Center
There are limited shadowing opportunities at BYU Health Services. These shadowing experiences are administered through the BYU pre-med club and are limited to club members.
ST DEV 214R Courses
There are physicians who teach various sections of STDEV 214R. One of the expectations for these courses are the respective physician will provide shadowing experiences for the students enrolled in that particular section. (Hint – these sections fill up fast!)
Your Home Town
There are more than 50,000 college students in the Orem/Provo area, many of whom are seeking shadowing in health care fields. You are encouraged to seek shadowing opportunities in your home town as 1) this may be better for your schedule as you can use summer time, class breaks, etc. and 2) there are likely fewer students seeking opportunities.
Timpanogos Regional Hospital in Orem does not allow student shadowing, nor does Mountain View Hospital in Payson. These are both MountainStar Medical facilities, so the assumption is that no MountainStar facilities in the state of Utah will allow shadowing.
Shriners Hospital for Children in Salt Lake will only allow shadowing if the student is actively enrolled in an accredited program which has an affiliation agreement with Shriners Hospital.
Now that you’ve arranged for the shadowing experience, a few points to consider:
A) You need to be flexible with your schedule. Make your schedule accommodate to what the physician can offer, not the other way around.
B) Dress appropriately. Professional dress, with no open-toed shoes.
C) Ask questions. However, wait until the clinic time/rounds are completed to ask questions of the physician. Don’t ask questions in front of the patient. Again, patient privacy and confidentiality is of paramount importance.
An important outcome of the shadowing experience is to answer the very important question: “What did I learn?” or the “So what?” It is strongly recommended that you keep a journal of your experiences and reflections. This will assist you in keeping track of your shadowing details needed to best complete your application to professional school. Additionally, journaling is a way to not only record facts and feelings, but also is an important step in becoming a reflective clinician, a valuable quality. You may also want to consider showing these guidelines to the person(s) whom you are shadowing, so that you can have shared goals.
After shadowing a physician, it is appropriate and professional to send a thank you note. It may lead to additional opportunities, and you when you apply, you will need one letter of recommendation from a physician you’ve shadowed.
There are several handouts on this page that can provide additional insights and guides to shadowing, and to facilitate you getting the very most out of your experience.
Please feel free to contact your advisor for additional assistance regarding shadowing.
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