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Shadowing and Clinical Experience

If you are looking to gain pre-health experience, or pre-dental experience then one of the best ways to accomplish this is to volunteer.  This way doctors will allow you to shadow them as they make their daily rounds in hospitals.  This basically means that you get to watch and learn.

Clinical Experience

Clinical experience gives you a first-hand look into the daily life of a physician.  It frequently involves: 

.  Care and treatment of patients.

.  Observing the patient/doctor relationship.

Clinical experience is essential because medical schools want to be confident that: 

.  You have a good understanding of the realities of medicine.

.  You are service-minded and people oriented.

.  You are committed to the practice of medicine.

Medical schools evaluate your clinical experience by: 

.  Length/time of commitment (some schools expect a minimum of one year).

.  Depth of experience.

.  Lessons learned from the experience.

Obtaining Clinical Experience

Pre-health experience can be obtained through volunteering or shadowing for clinical experience.

.  Volunteering at community clinics  can be a good way to obtain pre-dental

experience too.

.  Volunteering at community clinics and/or hospitals for pre-health experience

lets you observe a multitude of health care professionals and gain knowledge

of how a hospital and/or clinic is run.

.   Shadowing a physician lets you view the daily life of a doctor and obtain

insight from professionals about their experiences and how they view their


Other ways of engaging in these types of experiences include: 

.  Volunteering at a social service agency (suicide hotline, Alzheimer’s

Assoc., etc.)

.  Volunteering at a hospice center, a retirement center, or a crisis center.

.  Study Abroad experiences.


.  If you’re looking for physicians to shadow for your pre-health experience,

consider starting with your personal network.  Some obtain their pre-dental

experience this way too.  At any rate, some students opt to begin their

shadowing experience by checking with their own doctor to see if shadowing

is possible.

.  While it’s great to have family members who are in the health professions,

medical schools also expect you to step out of your comfort zone and shadow/

volunteer with health professionals who are non-family members.

.  Remember to start looking for pre-health clinical experience early!  Some

locations have wait lists or extensive volunteer application/training processes,

and it may take some time before you’re able to begin your clinical experience.

.  As you’re contacting doctors to shadow or sites for potential clinical

experience, be certain to let them know you’re a pre-med/pre-health student,

and explain why this experience will be important/relevant to you.

.  Keep track of dates and hours!  You will likely be asked to supply that

information, along with a contact person and a phone number or email

address, for each experience you list on your application.

.  Keep a journal about your experiences.  The journal will not only help you in

your decision-making process, it will help generate material for your personal

statement and secondary application questions.

Shadowing and Volunteering or Just Shadowing

Ideally, those seeking pre-health experience or pre-dentistry experience should have a combination of shadowing and volunteering.  Shadowing is usually short term but a student is able to see many varying facets of medicine through differing shadowing experiences.  Volunteering allows students to demonstrate a commitment to service over time.  It’s usually a more active experience than shadowing, which tends to be more observation.

How To Find Out About Summer Opportunities

Many opportunities in which students engage during the year (i.e. volunteering at a clinic or hospital) can be continued during the summer months.  You can also check out volunteer programs Summer Programs section.

So there you have it.  Medical experience is extremely valuable to those in need of pre-health experience or pre-dentistry experience for many reasons.  Observing physicians and understanding what they do on a daily basis helps premeds understand the challenges and rewards of the medical profession and to envision themselves as physicians.  Spending time with mentors also helps premed students clarify and solidify their goals, confirming with certainty that they want to pursue a career in medicine.  Observing or volunteering also helps premeds understand the ways in which hospitals or clinics function and the teamwork involved in providing good medical care.  Excellent lessons all of them and a good start to your future as a doctor, nurse, or health care provider.

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