Arranging shadowing opportunities:
Shadowing of physicians, or certain other healthcare professionals, is considered an essential element of preparing for medical school. The expectation is not that you will learn any substantial amount about medicine through shadowing, but rather that you will have developed an appreciation for what a physician’s daily routine is like before you commit to pursuit of medicine as a career. For this reason it isn’t essential that you specifically shadow a physician, but rather that you are exposed to the expectations and responsibilities of a working medical environment. Obviously, if you wish to pursue orthopedic surgery as a career, it would be advisable to shadow an orthopedic surgeon, if possible; but it is better to shadow providers in several different areas of medicine to provide you with a well-rounded picture of medical practices. Most medical school programs suggest having approximately 50 hours of shadowing prior to submission of your application.
Finding shadowing opportunities can often pose a problem for students, since finding them can be difficult--given the restrictions and liability placed upon healthcare providers by Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations. These regulations restrict healthcare providers in matters of patient confidentiality. Despite such obstacles, there are several ways in which a student can find shadowing opportunities. You are welcome to contact any physician, department, or office directly, although do not be surprised or insulted if they decline. Again, HIPAA regulations and busy schedules may reduce their willingness to participate. Do not be afraid of using family contacts or other social networks as resources, however.
- Ask your family physician or other healthcare provider if he/she would mind having you shadow them for a set period of time.
- Volunteer your services at the local hospital or public healthcare clinic. Most such organizations have volunteer programs managed through their Human Resources department.
- Redmond Regional Hospital and Harbin Clinic have been willing to allow Berry students to shadow providers there. Unless you have arranged something with a specific physician, these opportunities are managed through their Human Resources departments.
- Volunteer for medical mission trips abroad that are frequently organized through local churches. Local health fairs often need volunteers as well. These will broaden your network and may provide additional opportunities for future shadowing.
- Floyd Hospital has partnered with Blue Ridge Healthcare and actually maintains an application process on-line for those wishing to shadow. Go to
- The Blue Ridge Area Health Education Center at 2007 N. Broad St. has an extensive list of local contacts and associations with healthcare providers. They would likely be able to help find volunteer opportunities for students.
- The Berry College Career Development Center has agreed to help arrange physician shadowing through its network of alumni. Check with Ms. Sylvia Howard in that office.
It is critical that students participating in shadowing remember that they represent the spirit of their academic institution. You will be expected to behave at all times in a professional, thoughtful, and respectful manner toward all personnel serving at these provider organizations, regardless of their status within the organization. Only by adhering to the highest levels of appropriate conduct can those that follow you enjoy the same opportunities.