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I live in a province where shadowing physicians isn't allowed until you're a medical student. I had my first ever shadowing experience recently and I felt very awkward and didn't really know what to do. 

I was wondering if there are basic rules or etiquettes that I should follow while shadowing a doctor. For instance, How should you go about introducing ourselves? when physicians are discussing cases with the residents is it appropriate to be a part of the convo? How much or how little should we contribute to it? and Any general tips on getting over that awkwardness

 

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5 minutes ago, JohnGrisham said:

You are a shadow, only speak when being spoken too, and if you do speak without being prompted, make sure its something insightful/clarifying - and not something to be said just for the sake of saying something.

I mean this is definitely the safest strategy, but it also reflects a gross attitude in medicine that you should always be meek and apologetic to your seniors, and in turn fosters poor treatment of your juniors down the road if you internalize it (cough cough every gen surg senior ever cough).

Like any social situation, you have to feel it out. If the person you are shadowing is talking to you and trying to involve you don't be afraid to speak or be embarrassed that you're inexperienced. If they actually get annoyed at you for daring to ever make your presence known, I would question why they agreed to let you shadow to begin with. It takes an outrageously minimal amount of common sense to know that if there's some kind of emergency and the person you are shadowing is suddenly rushing to do something that it's probably a bad time to ask why the patient is turning blue, so I guess keep that in mind if you're so clueless that it wouldn't occur to you in the moment. Don't stress about "secret rules" of where to stand and stuff, just listen if a nurse or doctor asks you to move.

Honestly instead of just assuming the worst and going with the 'only speak when spoken to' strategy just asks them at the start if it's okay to ask questions etc. They'll tell you what they expect, there's no need for you to be left wondering. Personally I would wager that if they're letting you shadow they enjoy teaching and will be happier with someone who's asking questions and seems engaged, but again just ask beforehand.

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1 hour ago, Hellothere77 said:

I mean this is definitely the safest strategy, but it also reflects a gross attitude in medicine that you should always be meek and apologetic to your seniors, and in turn fosters poor treatment of your juniors down the road if you internalize it (cough cough every gen surg senior ever cough).

Unless i misinterpreted the post - OP is a premed shadowing? So certainly as they stated they are in a province where it is not allowed anyways technically... 

Or i grossly misunderstood the post, and they are actually a medical student now! In that case, definitely still be polite and not get in the way too much, but if they took you for shadowing that means they are more than willing to interact and have you involved in communication etc. So appropriate questions and showing interest is definitely okay and encouraged :) 

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Thank you both for your responses! I will keep these in mind for future Shadowing instances!

18 hours ago, JohnGrisham said:

Or i grossly misunderstood the post, and they are actually a medical student now! In that case, definitely still be polite and not get in the way too much, but if they took you for shadowing that means they are more than willing to interact and have you involved in communication etc. So appropriate questions and showing interest is definitely okay and encouraged :) 

And yes I am a med student now haha but I felt like I didn't have that experience of shadowing as a premed so I didn't really know what to expect from it!

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I think it totally depends on who the doc is that you're shadowing and how down they are to chat. There's a time and place to be quiet and stay out of the way and the golden rule of shadowing is to never cost the doc extra time or extra work. But at the same time, if the doc is chill, it would be really weird if you just spoke when spoken to and didn't ask questions or make small talk. End of the day, it's two people hanging out for the day, so you want it to be educational, but you ideally also want it to be enjoyable.

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  • 2 weeks later...

When the actual patient is there, stay quiet. If you have questions, don't hesitate to ask them after the patient is gone. If a resident is revising the case, you shouldn't interrupt but once they are done, I believe it's fine to also ask questions about the case.

The couple times I shadowed as a med student, the attending would usually give some explanations about the case before we'd see the patient so I'd understand what's going on and would then explain his thinking afterwards before asking if I had questions.

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