a guide to shadowing in medicine:

Today, I traded my usual ceil blue scrubs for the OR scrubs and followed an OB/GYN. My experience today was beyond words amazing.

hi, OR!

Throughout my time at the hospital I was fortunate enough to observe multiple outpatient surgeries, round with the doctor, and witness two deliveries (for the first time)! Words do not describe how blessed I feel to observe something so beautiful.

I have always known that I loved medicine. My shadowing experiences have just confirmed my love – especially today.

I used to read every medical book I could get my hands on since I was a little girl and was always fascinated by all the seemingly minute details of the human body that work together to create a system that is beyond any machine. Once I found out I could start job shadowing and seeing some of these amazing things in action, I didn’t look back.


Let me give you a little background!

High school is where my clinical experiences began. My high school offered a 2-credit course that exposed us students to the field of medicine by job shadowing during the course period about 6 times a month for 4 months. Now that I look back, there were certain classes I could’ve taken that would have prepared me better for college academically, but the knowledge I obtained throughout my medical careers course taught me so many things beyond textbook knowledge.

my classmates and I in our blue shadowing coats!

Throughout my senior year of high school, I observed several specialties of choice including family medicine, OB/GYN, emergency medicine, internal medicine, pathology, dietetics, surgery, pre and post-op care, cardiology, and many others that are not forgotten!

As a high school student, I knew I wanted to be a doctor. This opened my eyes to my already-eager mind and deepened my passion for medicine. I cannot thank you enough for your superior leadership, compassion, and mentorship throughout this experience, Mrs. Adams. I would not be the student, tech, or person I am today without your devotion to helping me learn and grow.

Now entering my third year of college, I have continued to shadow in both family medicine and obstetrics/gynecology as I have found these two areas to click with me the best. I don’t think it’s possible to have a “bad” experience shadowing because if you don’t like something, you can eliminate it from your list.

With my experience shadowing in many areas the past four years, I have some tips to share with you that can help to enhance your experience if you choose to shadow!

5 Reasons to job shadow in the medical field:

1. You will learn if you like the medical field or not.

Yes, really. If you are intrigued by medicine-no matter which component- you should start job shadowing. There are many glorified TV shows and movies that recreate medical scenarios which make for good entertainment, however, they don’t give you the rawness of medicine first-hand.

You will know right away if you enjoyed what you saw in your shadowing experience. Were you interested in the things you got to see? Did you have questions for you mentor throughout your time shadowing? Could you see yourself doing this job and being happy?

If you decide that the field isn’t for you, you could have potentially saved yourself money, time, and stress that is commonly associated with going into the medical field. Now, don’t get me wrong, if you are going into the field of medicine, all these things are totally worth it. But if not, you will be happy you spared yourself! It can be a process of elimination of sorts.

The reason many programs either recommend (or sometimes require!) logged shadowing hours is to ensure that you are going into a field that you want to commit to. It’s true, either you love medicine, or you don’t want to have anything to do with it. If you are interested in medicine, then shadowing will just reaffirm your decision.

2. If you like the medical field, you will learn what you like about the medical field.

Do you like the idea of an operating room? Or does the idea of a clinic setting sound more like your interest? Try them both (and then some!) No matter which profession you shadow in the OR, you will see all the other components- the surgeon, scrub nurse, anesthesiologist, anesthetist, surgical tech, etc. Maybe surgery itself didn’t spark your interest, but the post-op area did. Give that a go! šŸ™‚

3. If you are dead set on a specific field of medicine, you STILL might change your mind after job shadowing.

Before I started college, I loved the idea of forensic medicine and performing autopsies.  I did a lot of research in this area and decided I wanted to pursue forensic medicine. However, after I shadowed in family medicine, I observed the physician-patient relationships and saw how vital this is to the healing process; something I am very drawn to. Though still fascinated by forensic medicine, my experience job shadowing has provoked me to switch gears and consider more hospital/clinic based specialties.

4. You will gain experience and knowledge that you can’t learn from your textbook.

Textbooks are great. The internet is great. Going to class is great. (Fellow nerds unite!)  However, things that you see through experience cannot be taught any other way. While shadowing, you may see diseases, cases, and images you have learned and read about. But the beauty of clinical experience allows you to gap the bridge from your textbook to the real word and make a concept “click.” It’s one of the best feelings ever!

Besides seeing things visually, you are immersed directly in the field. As a student, you are a bystander. You don’t have to do anything but be eyes and ears. You get to observe interactions between your mentor and their patients. You get to see what each component of the field does in the process of treating patients.

For example, you can see the extent of the work a PA or NP can do in the care process, when a respiratory therapist is consulted, what a nurse does at bedside, what PTs and OTs do for the recovery process; the list does not end.

5. Lastly, it will help you make your goals more specific.

You found an area you are set on through job shadowing?  Good for you! THAT’S THE GOAL. Now pursue it. Find out what you have to do to achieve your goals and go for it! šŸ™‚

Job Shadowing Tips

  • Find a facility that is known to be a “teaching facility.”
    • Some hospitals are better about having students than others. The ones that aren’t necessarily teaching hospitals are by no means “bad” hospitals and I am not criticizing them. From experience, I know there are hospitals that are better about accepting students than others. Do your research and call the facility and ask what areas students are permitted to observe. If you find this inconclusive, try a different facility!

*Teaching facilities are strongly associated with having a health-science based university in the same area!*

  • “Dress for the part you want, not the part you have.”
    • Most healthcare facilities have similar dress codes for not only students, but health system-wide. Some of the more general rules to follow are:
      • Long hair tied back
      • Wear close-toed shoes
      • No strong perfumes or colognes (due to patient allergies and sensitivities)
    • Alongside these rules, ask the facility what the dress code is for shadowing. Many healthcare settings will permit you to wear scrubs while you shadow, but check beforehand.
    • If you’re in a clinic setting, consider something business casual. Scrubs are likely more acceptable in a hospital setting.
  • Eat before you arrive.
    • Not only does this help you be more alert and attentive instead of groggy, but it will decrease your risk of feeling faint. When you eat breakfast, you are quite literally breaking the fast between the last time you ate the night before. Our blood glucose levels drop while we sleep and need to be replenished to get us feeling ready to take on the day (regardless).
  • Come prepared.
    • What area are you shadowing in? Catch up on the field. Find a job description of the profession so you have an idea of some of the things you might see. Is there a specific procedure that is routine for your mentor’s profession? What is a typical day in the life? Could you potentially see shocking or traumatic things? Reading up gives you an idea what to expect beforehand.
  • Ask questions.
    • Your mentor will likely ask you if you have any, but ask them as you go! No question is a dumb question.The best mentors show their passion for their career and are happy to teach you why they enjoy their field so much.
  • Get involved.
    • It could happen that those who are allowing you to  shadow are so used to doing their job without a student they may forget to include you. Easy solution! Be proactive and ask if you can step in and see what’s going on. If you can’t see something and want to, ask! In my past experiences, I have been allowed to use the fetal heart monitor to listen to heart tones, feel the fundal height of  postpartum patients, and look at x-rays.
  • Do not be scared or offended.
    • If you are feeling faint, ill, or something grosses you out, LET SOMEONE KNOW. Do not let it to get to the point of you fainting. Passing out would be lots more embarrassing than taking five minutes to step out of the room and gather your composure.  If you don’t feel comfortable enough to come back to the room after you’ve stepped out, IT’S OK. You are a student, not a trained professional who is expected to do this as your job (not until much later!). šŸ™‚
    • Be prepared to know that not all patients will give permission to having a student in the room. Do not be offended. It is their choice. Patients are the reason you get to be shadowing; they are the business. Health can be very personal, so if someone requests not having a student in the room, accept it, move on,  and hope the next patient will allow you to shadow!

*Side note *

Some specialities will not allow high school students in their practice (for various reasons), but are more flexible about allowing college students. My advice is to wait your turn because your opportunity will be there before you know it. šŸ™‚


  • Keep a log of your hours and get a signature from your mentor.
    • As your program may require a specific amount of shadowing hours, do not let them go to waste! Write them down as soon as you’re done. It doesn’t hurt to get a signature from your mentor as well!
  • Make a list of the things you liked and disliked about your experience.
    • This is useful for your own personal decision-making that you might make down the road. Writing a brief reflection may help make your career choice easier! What were you favorite things about what you saw? Did you absolutely hate it? Write it down!
    • This is probably the most important component of the entire experience. Your mentor has taken time out of their (often busy)  day to share their career with you. Write a sincere thank you card explaining what you enjoyed and how thankful you are for letting you shadow them. Taking the time to thank your mentor will mean a lot to them.


So, here’s to you, the future of medicine. Get out there! There is an entire world of knowledge out there for Y O U to learn about  Get your feet wet. Spark some interests! You have nothing to lose!



Maybe one day I’ll have my own OR!

~ Medicine is for those who cannot imagine doing anything else ~

Dr. Luanda Grazette, MD


Leave a Comment

  1. Reblogged this on and commented:
    LOVE Madeline as a person and as a future medical professional! I agree with every point she has in this post,

    Liked by 1 person

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