I found a doctor that I want to shadow, but how do I ask them?
Well “Neurotic Premed” the easiest way we can think of is to just ask. We prefer writing an email, since we are all very “tech” savvy over here at PMH; or you could just call us all nerds. Anyways the key to a convincing email is to keep it very simple and very short, most doctors are very busy people, and don’t have too much time to sit there and read a copy of your thesis. If your email is too long most of the time it will be set aside to read later…when this happens your email will almost never be read.
Pro-Tip #1: Keep it short and to the point
We think anything longer than 10 sentences is way too much, if you write it out by hand it should be able to fit on a 3”x5” index card. We will have a sample email for you to reference at the end of this post. Your email shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes to read.
Pro-Tip #2: [email protected] may have been in when you were 6 not anymore.
Your email address should be one of the following combinations [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], anything other than that isn’t professional, and sends the wrong message, grow up and get rid of your 3rd grade email address. Even better use your .edu mail address, [email protected] sends the perfect message, use it.
Pro-Tip #3: Save all your experience and leadership positions for your medical school applications.
You don’t need to write about how you saved orphans or cured some horrible disease. That looks good on your medical school applications, as far as shadowing goes, they will either say yes or no, your experience will not help you. If you volunteer at the hospital the doctor works, just mention that, anything else is superfluous and fluff, it just makes your e-mail that much longer.
Pro-Tip #4: Always mention the person who gave you the contact information.
This is a valuable foot in the door; always mention whoever told you to contact the doctor this always helps in convincing the doctor to say yes. Now the physician has a direct recommendation from a trusted acquaintance.
We over here at PMH for the most part hate picking up the phone, we are always twittering, facebooking, emailing, and texting…we rarely pick up the phone and call people; but even we understand that sometimes that a phone number is the only contact message you can find. So we compiled another set of “Pro-Tips” to help you we have included a sample voicemail script, and a sample script of what to say if the doctor or secretary picks up the phone.
Pro-Tip #1: Call a few minutes before the office opens, or a few minutes after it closes.
We always get strange looks when we tell people to do this, but in reality we know that most of the time in private clinics, the doctor will always arrive a little earlier than the rest of their staff, so they can get some extra work done. Calling during this time period pretty much ensures the person picking up the phone will be the doctor.
Pro-Tip #2: Keep the duration of your phone call under 5 minutes.
We have already said this about a million times, doctors are busy, don’t waste their time dive straight in to the meat of the topic and get off the phone, they will appreciate it.
Pro-Tip #3: Regardless of whom picks up the phone BE NICE!
Doctors in private environments tend to put a lot of stock in the opinions of their staff, don’t anger a nurse or a secretary, you will get a big fat no as a response. Be extremely nice and courteous to the nurses and the secretaries over the phone, often they are very busy and have a lot on their plate, they can be your best friends in getting introductions, and in helping to get you into the clinic.
Dear __Dr. Smart__,
My name is __John Doe__; I am currently a __sophomore biology major__ at __University__. I was told by __mutual acquaintance__ that you often have undergraduate students shadow you during your clinic hours. I am interested in the field of medicine, and would like to have the chance to shadow you for a day to see the duties of a physician first hand.
“Hello __Dr. Smart__, my name is __John Doe__ I am currently a __biology__ major at __university__. __mutual acquaintance__ told me to contact you regarding shadowing during your clinic hours. Please call me back at your convenience, my phone number is __555-555-5556__. Thank You. Bye”
Sample Script #1 (You/Doctor)
You: Hello, I would like to speak with __Dr. Smart__.
You: Hi, my name is __John Doe__, I was told to contact you by __mutual acquaintance__ regarding shadowing. I am currently a __year_major__ at __university__.
Doctor: *thinks* Well okay __John__ call my secretary to set up a day to come and shadow me.
Sample Script #2 (You/Staff)
You: Hello may I please speak with __Dr. Smart__.
Staff: He is currently with a patient, I’m his __staff__, can I take a message.
You: I was wondering if __Dr. Smart__ allows undergraduate students to shadow him.
Staff: He has done that a couple times, how about you give me your name and number, and I’ll ask him and let you know.
You: That sounds great, My name is John Doe and my phone number is __(555)-555-5556__ Thanks a lot.
These are all very basic scripts that cover the information that you need to convey. We encourage you to use these for inspiration, but make your email or phone conversation authentic, you want to cover the information in our scripts, but you don’t want to sound like us. Try to keep your email or conversation short, and post in the comments with any success stories. Your conversation will most likely sound different, and it will go differently, our scripts are ideal conversations, but be prepared for rejections and when they come make sure to thank the doctor politely for their time.