How Many Hours of Shadowing for Medical School Do You Need?

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When it comes to getting through medical school, there are probably many questions that you are trying to answer or trying to find out more about. But how can you be sure you’re getting the right information/ Well, you’ll want to make sure you’re asking the right questions.

One thing you need to know about when it comes to med school is shadowing. You might be wondering how many shadowing hours for medical school or what are some of the medical schools that require shadowing. And if you already know you need to get hours, you might even be wondering about the skills gained from shadowing.

We’re going to take a look at some of the critical information that you need to learn and what you should discuss with others in your program or even with teachers and staff to make sure you’re getting the most out of your medical school experience.

Do You Need Shadowing for Med School?Do You Need Shadowing for Med School?

The short answer is that shadowing is generally not required to get into med school, but it is definitely a benefit. Now, there may be some schools that actually do require you to have some experience shadowing a doctor, so make sure that you’re looking at the requirements for each of the schools you want to apply to.

If the schools that you’re interested in do have a requirement for shadowing, you want to know it early on. And that means getting started looking at med schools during the early part of your undergraduate program. You could even contact the school to find out about shadowing requirements and how many hours they require.

On the other hand, if you’re applying to a school that doesn’t explicitly require you to have shadowing experience, that doesn’t mean you should skip it entirely. Instead, see if you can find an opportunity to shadow anyway. It will look good on your application, and it’s going to help you verify you’re in the right place.

Is Shadowing Important for Medical School?

Is Shadowing Important for Medical School?

In general, it’s going to be a good idea to get shadowing experience, but it’s not as important as you might think. Shadowing a doctor early on will help you see what the profession is actually like before you get into medical school. This will help you make sure that you’re on the right track and that you really will enjoy being a doctor.

Another critical aspect of shadowing is that you will have something to put on your resume or application for medical school. While most schools do not require you to have this type of experience, it can definitely give you an edge over some of your fellow applicants. You’ll get even more benefit if you put shadowing experience with a great MCAT and GPA.

The more competitive the school that you are applying to, the more you want to do to set your application apart, and shadowing experience is one way to do that. Just make sure that you’re documenting all of the hours that you spend shadowing and that you speak with the doctor in charge to make sure that they sign off on those hours. You want to be sure that you have verification later on if you need it.

When Should You Start Shadowing a Doctor?

When Should You Start Shadowing a Doctor?

You want to start looking into shadowing as soon as possible because it’s something that could take time. Early in your undergraduate program, start thinking about specialties that you might be interested in or doctors that you may want to approach about a shadowing opportunity.

If your school has an official shadowing program (not all schools will), make sure you know when you can apply and what the deadlines are. Also, make sure that you look into any shadowing requirements for medical schools you’re looking to apply to. Most won’t have one, but you want to be aware just in case.

Remember, you and the doctor that you’re going to shadow need to be able to get together, and that may be easier said than done. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get the hours in that you want (or need) before you start sending in your applications.

You’ll want to do the actual shadowing in your senior year, in most cases, though you may be able to start in your junior year. Talk with your school and definitely talk with doctors that you’re interested in shadowing to find out how early they will let you start. If you can start earlier, it’s actually going to help you get the hours you want in without having to overload your schedule.

Remember, you want to have a good understanding of what you’re doing before you start shadowing. So, while a doctor may be willing to let you shadow during your early years, you won’t get as much out of that kind of shadowing as you will later on in your experience when you already have a good foundation of science classes.

What's the Difference Between Shadowing and Clinical Experience?

What’s the Difference Between Shadowing and Clinical Experience?

Shadowing is all about you following along behind a doctor and watching what they do. It’s going to help you understand a little more of what a day in the life of a doctor is like. You won’t do anything yourself (or at least very little), but you will get to see everything that the doctor does.

In this type of experience, you will get a better idea of different specialties, depending on the type of doctor you shadow, as well as the opportunity to make sure this is where you want to be. If you get started shadowing and don’t’ like what you see, you will want to try out a couple of different specialties and then reevaluate whether a career in medicine is right for you.

On the other hand, clinical experience is more hands-on. With this experience, which is required for your degree, you’ll actually be responsible for performing many of the tasks within the profession. But keep in mind these hours are generally not required until after you start medical school.

Most medical schools do not require students to have clinical experience on their application, though again, it might be able to set you apart if you’re applying to a more competitive program. Make sure when you do complete any experience, you document it on your application property.

If you are not engaged in any actual activities personally, or you’re not doing any hands-on things, you are likely in a shadowing role. If you are engaged in hands-on tasks, you may be engaged in a more clinical role. You want to document these properly so that if your medical school calls to verify, they get the same information from the doctor as they did from you.

You also want to make sure that you’re getting full credit for all of the hours that you complete and for the right type of experience. Both shadowing and clinical experience are good for you, but you want to make sure you record them in a way that your medical school can understand as well.

How Much Shadowing for Medical School is Enough?

How Much Shadowing for Medical School is Enough?

This is going to depend on you as well as the schools that you are applying to. Some schools will have a requirement for the amount of shadowing that you need to do. This may be a low amount, like 12 hours, or it might be high, as in over 100. Make sure you look into any schools that you want to apply to and make sure that you get the right number of hours.

Remember also to look at each of the schools that you are planning to apply to. You will need to achieve at least the highest of those numbers in order to apply to all of your schools. If one of your preferred schools requires 100 hours and the rest require 50 or less, you will want to get at least 100 hours (though it’s a good idea to go a little over the minimum) to make sure you’re prepared for each of the applications.

If you don’t have a requirement for shadowing, however, you may wonder just how many hours you should bother to get. It’s important to note that shadowing is a great benefit to you, so you shouldn’t ignore it just because the schools you want to apply to do not have a set requirement. But you also don’t need to devote all of your free time to getting hours.

For those schools that don’t have a requirement, getting as many hours as you can in will help give you a competitive edge. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you should be shadowing a doctor whenever you have free time, but note that shadowing does give you some additional insight. It’s going to be a good use of your time because the more you shadow the doctor, the more you’ll learn, and the more you’ll know that this is where you want to be.

Make sure that your education is taking the front seat, and you’re doing well in your classes, and then fill in your time with some clinical experiences, some shadowing experiences, and of course, your other responsibilities (both for school and outside of school). In general, 100 hours is a good number to aim for and will give you some great experience.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to shadow the same doctor or even in the same facility every time. In fact, it’s going to be even better if you can get out and shadow in different places and with different specialties so you can get a better idea of what you like and where you want to specialize for yourself.

Don’t underestimate shadowing and the benefits that it can provide. And don’t assume that you can cram the hours in right at the end before sending out your applications. You’ll need to have plenty of time available to work with the doctors you want to and get all of your applications in as well.

Wrapping Things Up: Shadowing Hours for Medical School

If you’re looking to improve your medical school application, then shadowing is definitely something to consider carefully. You may even be surprised just how much this can improve the look of your resume or your application to the school of your choice, and if you pair it with other positives (like work experience, extracurriculars, GPA, and MCAT scores), you’re going to set yourself up even better.

Talk with doctors that you know or reach out to doctors in areas that interest you and see when you can start shadowing them. Then, make sure that you schedule in as much time as you can while still taking care of all of your other responsibilities and requirements.

Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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