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Shadowing During the Pandemic

Shadowing has many professional benefits for aspiring healthcare workers. For one, shadowing is important to gain a true understanding of the healthcare environment and the roles that different professionals play. Gaining this understanding can help you determine whether you envision yourself pursuing a career in healthcare. Shadowing is also a great way to demonstrate your commitment to medicine- it conveys your interest in the realistic aspects of healthcare, rather than a made-up vision. Shadowing is also an amazing hands-on learning experience! It allows you to apply the skills you’ve learned in classes, summer programs, and more. These are just some of the reasons why medical schools expect their applicants to have shadowing experience.


However, the pandemic has created many obstacles for healthcare professionals and students who aspire to follow in their footsteps. For many healthcare professionals, the added stress and duties that come with the pandemic make it harder to foster an accommodating learning environment for shadowers. As a result, it has also become difficult for premed students to seek shadowing opportunities.


That being said, shadowing during the pandemic is still possible. There are many options and alternatives for students to consider pursuing for shadowing experience. All it takes is some additional planning, patience, and precaution!



In-Person Shadowing

The first way you can shadow during the pandemic is in-person, which is the typical means of shadowing. In-person is the ideal type of shadowing to pursue because you are physically immersed in the healthcare environment and able to gain hands-on experience. However, it can be more difficult to attain such opportunities because of the pandemic.


To get started, you must secure a spot as a shadower- this tends to be the most difficult part. You can begin the process by reaching out to your primary care provider or any specialists you visit. Since they’re already familiar with you, it may be easier to land a shadowing opportunity. An alternative is to reach out to local hospitals and clinics through cold-calling and emailing. When you reach out, make sure to discuss why you want to shadow that particular physician (or other health professional)- perhaps they work in a specialty of your interest or someone recommended that person to shadow. Also, discuss your medically-related experiences and your goals. Remember to keep your calls/emails concise and direct to increase the likelihood of a response. Keep in mind that fewer hospitals have the resources and energy to accommodate shadowers because of the pandemic, so you may experience rejection before you gain an opportunity to shadow!


Once you are able to shadow, keep in mind:

  1. Always be punctual and prepared at the beginning of your shift- The person you’re shadowing is doing you a favor by allowing you to shadow, so make sure to express your gratitude by being respectful!

  2. Adhere to the institution's rules- One of the most important rules to abide by as a shadower is patient confidentiality. Make sure to not disclose any patient information to anyone outside of the healthcare setting- you may even be asked to sign a HIPAA compliance document.

  3. Do not be disruptive- Be observant and ask questions at appropriate times. If patients are uncomfortable with your presence, be understanding and step out of the room or follow the doctor’s instructions.

Given the pandemic, there are also a few extra measures that need to be taken to maximize safety. Firstly, you should always abide by the institution’s COVID-19 regulations- this will likely include wearing a mask and maintaining social distance. If you are living with others while shadowing, you should limit your transmission as much as possible. Ways to do this include washing your hands, changing your clothes when returning home, and sanitizing personal items used. Temperature checks should be done daily, as well. You may need to distance from family or roommates.

Ask your mentor what they are doing to keep their family safe and mirror those actions!


Virtual Shadowing

Another option you can pursue is virtual shadowing. Virtual shadowing is usually done via health student based nonprofits- meetings are held where health professionals are invited to speak about their work and present case studies. Virtual shadowing is a great option for many reasons, but has a few downsides compared to traditional, in-person shadowing.



With the pandemic in mind, many graduate schools are becoming understanding towards students who cannot access in-person shadowing opportunities. Many schools accept virtual shadowing hours (though you should confirm with specific schools you are interested in) but recommend having other clinical experiences to convey your interest in healthcare.


The Premed Scene offers virtual shadowing! Register for sessions on our website, attend the meetings, and take the corresponding quizzes to obtain shadowing hours. The quizzes are valid for four days after each session and you must get a 6/10 to gain your hours. We have sessions on Wednesdays at 7 PM CST.


Recap

No matter the route you take, in-person and virtual shadowing both pose great benefits. When you are applying to graduate school, know that clinical experience only makes up one part of your application! Always remember the importance of being well-rounded and not to worry greatly about one portion of your application.


Thank you for reading! Sincerely,

Alisha Khodabocus


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