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Arranging Shadowing Without Connections?


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I don't have a personal connection with any actual (practicing) physicians. How would one go about arranging shadowing without knowing the physician personally? I know that doing so isn't "necessary" for an application, but it's a good way of getting a better picture of day-to-day duties and confirming interest in the profession (which is the main reason I'd like to do so). (Apologies if this is somewhere obvious; I know there's a link to a thread about this in the FAQ but it doesn't work anymore.)

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I thought shadowing was frowned upon in Canada. It never really made sense to me anyway (ie, why a patient would allow some kid to be there when the doctor is treating them/discussing very personal matters). This isn't the states, you don't need it at all to be a competitive applicant/get interviews.

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I thought shadowing was pretty useful for myself personally, and would recommend it if you can find a doctor willing to take you on. Usually better if its an outpatient FM or IM as they have more flexibility to do so.

I had no connections, but use google and medical databases to cold call. Be nice to the secretaries and eventually you'll get a bite. 

If you live close to the border, going south would be easier too.

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I thought shadowing was frowned upon in Canada. It never really made sense to me anyway (ie, why a patient would allow some kid to be there when the doctor is treating them/discussing very personal matters). This isn't the states, you don't need it at all to be a competitive applicant/get interviews.

I always hear this sentiment, and never really understand it. First year medical students go to preceptors for shadowing as  well- why is there any real significant difference? Pre-clinical basic sciences isn't a good enough answer lol.

 

Most patients were happy to let me in, i'd say 95% were okay with it - and above all they always loved having conversations at the end and giving more details for learning purposes etc. 

 

You definitely do not need it at all for Canadian medical schools - but I personally think it helped me in understanding the day to day of medicine, at least from the perspective of one specialty (FM). 

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I always hear this sentiment, and never really understand it. First year medical students go to preceptors for shadowing as  well- why is there any real significant difference? Pre-clinical basic sciences isn't a good enough answer lol.

 

Most patients were happy to let me in, i'd say 95% were okay with it - and above all they always loved having conversations at the end and giving more details for learning purposes etc. 

 

You definitely do not need it at all for Canadian medical schools - but I personally think it helped me in understanding the day to day of medicine, at least from the perspective of one specialty (FM). 

 

The issue is liability. If you unlawfully disclose patient information, harm the patient by doing a procedure (if doc lets you), then it's the doc who is sued. Med students are liable for their own actions while you are not. This is why med students have insurance included in their tuition and why med students can only shadow if they are taking courses (not taking courses in summer? can't shadow). 

If the doc is cool with you there then there's no problem. S/he's the one taking the risks here. I really think premeds should try to shadow to get a sense of whether this is something they want to do or not. When you shadow clinic it kinda feels like an MMI.

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I just can't take some of PM101's speculations seriously. I'm gonna have a hard time believing that the admissions committee is going to see shadowing experience and go like "oh oh that's a bad thing to have" aka frowned upon....

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I feel that it's tough sometimes to let pre-med kiddies shadow because of other things besides legal liability - are they emotionally ready for what they may encounter on the wards? What safety net is there when they feel not okay a few days after the fact? 

 

I shadowed as a pre-med myself, though, and I thought the experience to be valuable - but I guess it depends on the individual.

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The issue is liability. If you unlawfully disclose patient information, harm the patient by doing a procedure (if doc lets you), then it's the doc who is sued. Med students are liable for their own actions while you are not. This is why med students have insurance included in their tuition and why med students can only shadow if they are taking courses (not taking courses in summer? can't shadow). 

If the doc is cool with you there then there's no problem. S/he's the one taking the risks here. I really think premeds should try to shadow to get a sense of whether this is something they want to do or not. When you shadow clinic it kinda feels like an MMI.

Fair enough, but the doctor themself yes is the one who has to take on that responsibility - and know when its appropriate and not appropriate to have the student in the room. If they are willing, then its a non-issue.

 

Do medical students actually have insurance for those purposes? Maybe i'm missing something, but the only insurance schools have told me about so far is with regards to health insurance - didn't see anything about liability insurance yet...I haven't really looked either though haha.

 

A cursory look at UBC's website for example:http://mdprogram.med.ubc.ca/student-resources/financial-support/cost-of-an-md-student/ does not indicate any form of liability insurance.

 

Looking as well at their Visiting Student elective service site, it indicated Canadian medical students are not required to have malpractice insurance - it does state international students (IMGs) are required to have it, and can get it through UBC for a fee.

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I feel that it's tough sometimes to let pre-med kiddies shadow because of other things besides legal liability - are they emotionally ready for what they may encounter on the wards? What safety net is there when they feel not okay a few days after the fact? 

 

I shadowed as a pre-med myself, though, and I thought the experience to be valuable - but I guess it depends on the individual.

Good point, it is definitely a very individual thing.

 

I would say though, if the student feels they want the experience, then why not. They are going to eventually be in the setting anyways.

 

"Know your limits, play within it". 

 

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Fair enough, but the doctor themself yes is the one who has to take on that responsibility - and know when its appropriate and not appropriate to have the student in the room. If they are willing, then its a non-issue.

 

Do medical students actually have insurance for those purposes? Maybe i'm missing something, but the only insurance schools have told me about so far is with regards to health insurance - didn't see anything about liability insurance yet...I haven't really looked either though haha.

 

A cursory look at UBC's website for example:http://mdprogram.med.ubc.ca/student-resources/financial-support/cost-of-an-md-student/ does not indicate any form of liability insurance.

 

Looking as well at their Visiting Student elective service site, it indicated Canadian medical students are not required to have malpractice insurance - it does state international students (IMGs) are required to have it, and can get it through UBC for a fee.

Yes, we most definitely have insurance. Through the school. It's automatic.

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Clearly this is a somewhat controversial topic, but assuming I do want to shadow someone, what should I say in the cold call/email? Just that I'm interested in learning more about the profession as a prospective applicant and would like to accompany them as they work? Seems like there's no way they would say yes to that, unless it's more common than I realize.

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Clearly this is a somewhat controversial topic, but assuming I do want to shadow someone, what should I say in the cold call/email? Just that I'm interested in learning more about the profession as a prospective applicant and would like to accompany them as they work? Seems like there's no way they would say yes to that, unless it's more common than I realize.

Keep cold calling and ask if there are any shadowing availabilities and mentorship in a courteous manner - be informed and see what happens.  It will take a while, but your best bet is to approach outpatient FM and IM docs - as they have more flexibility to do such things. 

 

I may have mentioned, but if you live close to the border, it would be useful to contact some US docs as well and maybe you can arrange a few day stint at a time that is mutually beneficial. They tend to be more willing to do shadowing - as they themselves were likely in your shoes w.r.t shadowing experience.

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Do you know someone who knows a doctor? Maybe the sibling or parent of a friend? Maybe just one of your friends knows someone who you have never met.

Honestly, as a lawyer, people have wanted to meet with me and pick my brain. Students of friends, the kids of my parents' coworkers, etc. Usually some one will say "oh there is this person who is looking for a law job/seriously thinking about law school, can I give them your contact info"? I always say yes, I think most people would. I end up talking to the person in person for coffee, on the phone, or by email.

When I have been on the other side, it's the same thing. If I want to pick someone's brain, I will hopefully find a connection so that it's not just a cold call. Then I would email them saying that I would love their advice, etc., and that I would love to buy them lunch or coffee near their office, but if they are too busy a phone call or email conversation would be great too. A face to face meeting should be possible, everyone needs to eat or take a short break. 

If you meet a doctor face to face and ask them a lot of questions about their day to day, really get a feel for it, that will be just as good as shadowing. Maybe they will even invite you to shadow once you meet them. I'm not sure whether I would come right out and ask them, it's better just to ask for advice.

Everyone likes being asked for advice. As long as you are polite, you will be well-received I think. Oh, but don't ask anything in your first email other than to seek their advice in person, by phone, or by email. If you put a bunch of your questions and concerns in your original email, the recipient is likely to put off responding. It makes it much more of a chore and they have enough emails demanding that kind of time and attention that are more urgent.  

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Might depend on where you are located to be honest. If you are in a really big city where they hospitals are used to students and such then there might actually be shadowing programs, check through the volunteer office, if there is a university near you, they will more than likely have premed interest groups and shadowing programs. Where are you exactly?

 

Shadowing is very competitive. At my work the nurses and other health care professionals who have kids interested in medicine really try to work the doctors over to let them shadow (but it really only goes to people who know each other well) and of course docs have their own kids whom they try to send to med school, so they use each other to set up shadow opportunities. I have actually seen this backfire where a friend spent lots of time shadowing a doc who then refused to write him a letter -> he stated that he felt awkward writing multiple positive references and would only write it for one student who turned out to be the son of another doc they worked with. So maybe aim for much older docs who don't have other conflicts of interest.

 

But in my opinion the best way to get experience is through work - there are summer jobs for students in big hospitals as well as summer research programs, you can also try to apply to be a clinical assistant (you only need minimal education) where you will help nurses with the 'dirty work' but it is great exposure to patient populations and you may meet doctors or nurse practitioners whom you can then shadow. Just be honest with people as to your future career goals and why you want the opportunity.

 

I think more so than specifically following a doctor around for a day, you can show interest in medicine by having exposure to health care in general. You don't have to spend 3 hours with the chief of medicine, you can work a summer helping nurses and really gain much more insight, in my opinion.

 

Last suggestion may also be to reach out to med students (especially over the summer months), it might seem strange as a suggestion but many of the med students are very keen and may be open to chatting with you, some may have been in your shoes and I find that in general med students are quite enthusiastic and helpful.

 

Feel free to private message me if you have specific questions.

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