I have had many of my friends and acquaintances come to me and tell me that they cannot find doctors to shadow. They always ask me how I have managed to find doctors that I can shadow, and that every doctor they ask seems to say no. I have compiled a list of 5 tips that have helped me and many others find doctors that were willing to allow a “pre-med” to shadow them.
- Try your own doctor
I cannot stress this point enough; many people simply do not ask their primary care provider. It is one of the easiest ways to find doctors to shadow for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, it is much easier to convince doctors to allow you to shadow them in a primary care/ clinic environment, then in a surgical or critical care environment. Next, you already have a relationship with the doctor, and therefore already have a foot in the door. Most people don’t realize that their family care physician will more than likely say yes to being shadowed.
Also shadowing your own doctor also has a great benefit, this being that after a few times shadowing with them, you can ask for introductions to other doctors in other specialties that may involve critical care or surgery.
- Doctors that you volunteer with
Many of you already volunteer in hospitals, as a consequence of this you already have taken the necessary drug tests, and have passed all the required health checks. In short you have been issued a hospital ID; having a hospital ID is by far one of the easiest ways to convince a doctor to allow you to shadow them. If you volunteer in the ER, after a few week you will probably become familiar to some of the doctors, so just ask one of them if they mind you watching them on a few small procedures. Eventually you will become more familiar with them and you can ask if you can shadow them for a whole day. Shadowing doctors that I volunteer with has been one of the best ways for me to not only build connections with various doctors in the hospital but to find many other doctors to shadow.
- Find a family friend
Everyone knows a doctor, find that doctor your family knows not as their physician but as a friend, ask them if you can shadow them or one of their friends. Chances are that if they are in private practice they will be more than willing to allow you to shadow them, if they work at a hospital, they may be slightly less willing do to various hospital regulations, but if you have that hospital ID your good to go. A little bit of talking will need to take place, and you will have to convince them a little bit to say yes, I find that they are usually pretty likely to say yes in both conditions. The greatest benefit I found was that while you are shadowing them they go out of their way usually to introduce you to other doctors they work with. The family friend who happens to be a doctor is always a great person to have on your side.
- Find a medical student
If all of the above options fail for you, find a medical student. I would suggest asking a first or second year medical student that is from your area, ask them who they shadowed and if they would be willing to give you their contact information. If in that first email to the doctor you can say “I was given your email by XXXX a medical student at YYYY.” It will go a long way in making the doctor want to have you as a shadow; you have given him a recommendation essentially from another student who he allowed to shadow. You can usually get 2-4 names from medical students, of doctors that they once shadowed.
- Cold Call
I haven’t found this to be very effective yet, but it was suggested to me by a few friends, who reported great success with it. Crack open your phone book, find a local clinic, call in and ask to speak with doctor so and so. If they ask why politely introduce yourself and tell the secretary or nurse why you are calling. Usually they will put you through to the doctor if the doctor is free otherwise you will do on the list of calls the doctor has to answer. If you wish to avoid this I would suggest calling 10-15 minutes before the clinic opens, usually the secretaries will not be there at the time, and the doctor will be, and you can usually get through to the doctor with little to no resistance. The hardest part will be convincing the doctor, which is not that difficult, cite your experience volunteering, and other doctors that you have shadowed. Show a true interest in their field, and them. Who knows they may say yes.
Our next post in this series will be on what to do in order to prepare you for a successful shadowing experience, how to dress, and what to do in advance, as well as what to expect.