What should you pay attention to while shadowing?
Shadowing is the act of observing a professional in their daily interactions, and it can be done in almost any profession. Shadowing a physician, dentist, or other healthcare professional means that you observe how they:
- Interact and communicate with patients
- Make informed decisions
- Work with the "healthcare team"
- Organize the day
- Allow time for the unexpected
- Stay current in the profession
- Address uncertainty
- Integrate personal & professional life
- And much more…
In addition, not only will you learn from the professional but also from the patients and the patients’ families (or their owners if you are spending time with a veterinarian).
Debrief your experience with the person whom you are shadowing. Most professionals appreciate the opportunity to reflect and teach. Ask about health questions but also about what you observed. Remember, to wait to ask your questions until its appropriate.
It can be useful to shadow multiplespecialties or professions. Some professional schools see this as a sign that you are making a well informed decision to pursue a career in healthcare.
You should try various experiences to gain a breadth of understanding, but it’s good to find at least one that you stick with to show commitment and depth of experience.
What did you learn?
Questions to consider while you're observing/volunteering and after your experience
- What did you learn from your interaction with the patient about:
- The patient’s illness?
- What’s going on in the patient’s life that may have importance in dealing with the illness?
- The healthcare provider-patient interactions and relationship?
- The importance of spending enough time with a patient?
- The importance of engaged listening without interruption?
- How the healthcare professionals reason and make decisions?
- What did the patient teach you?
- Can I see myself doing what this professional does on a daily basis?
- What are some highlights and frustrations about this career?
- Do I like the pace of this profession?
- What did I learn about what it’s really like to be a healthcare provider (physician, physician’s assistant, veterinarian, nurse, dentist, etc? What are the ins and outs of the profession? What goes on behind the scenes?
It’s a great idea to send a thank you letter to the professional you shadowed. If things went well they may ask you back.
If it seems appropriate, at the end of your experience, ask if they would be willing to write a letter of recommendation in support of your application to professional school. You can also keep in touch with that professional or your supervisor to contact them later about writing a letter closer to when you apply.
Keep a journal
Keep a journal of your experiences and reflections. Journaling is not only a way to record facts and feelings, but also an important step in becoming a reflective healthcare provider, a valuable quality.
The journal will also be a helpful resource as you complete your applications to professional school. You should keep track of dates and hours spent shadowing/volunteering. Remember, though, to not include any identifying information.