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Job Shadowing

How can I find shadowing opportunities?

Unfortunately, locating shadowing opportunities can take a lot of time and effort.  The commonest method is that of simply asking a clinician or clinical office whether they allow shadowing. M-Shadow is a new organization on the UM campus that is dedicated to helping students find a wide range of shadowing experiences. Student organizations dedicated to specific health professions may also provide some shadowing opportunities for their members. Finally, there are some official programs associated with particular health professions that have shadowing built into them. We list some of these in association with those professions in the discussion of whether shadowing is required.

What about HIPAA? Clinician-patient interactions are protected by privacy laws. Therefore, it is very likely that you will be required to undergo a brief, official training program about the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA) before you are allowed to do any shadowing.  If that’s the case, they will likely require a certificate attesting to the completion of that training prior to you beginning any shadowing.

  • A clinical environment such as a hospital, physical therapy clinic, or something similar, will probably have its own HIPAA training module.  Ask an administrator in the clinic about this if you are unsure.
  • The University of Michigan Health System HIPAA training module.
    • If you are shadowing or volunteering within the UM system, follow the procedures given to you by your supervisor.  
    • If you are trying to use this for HIPAA certification for something outside of UM, check first to make sure it will be accepted.

Is shadowing required? While all health professions programs require evidence that you have explored the profession carefully, only some of them actually require shadowing, specifically. Those that do require it may even require a specified minimum number of hours. This is another area where consulting with advisors and researching your target programs early can help you avoid unhappy surprises later on.  

Pre-Medical Shadowing

Both MD and DO schools value shadowing very highly. However, DO schools are far more likely to require a letter from an osteopathic physician you have shadowed. The number of hours required for such letters tends to be around twenty or thirty, but you should always check the requirements of each target school. Pre-medical shadowing resources include:

Also, if you happen to have the opportunity to do a great deal of shadowing (let’s say more than 100 hours), first of all congratulations! You’re part of a lucky few. However, make sure that you have the opportunity to interact directly with and learn from patients, too. If that’s not something that happens during the shadowing process, then it’s important to add new activities that do allow this.

Pre-Dental Shadowing

It is common for dental schools to require require shadowing.  For example, the University of Michigan Dental School requires at least 100 hours of shadowing prior to application. You can find other schools’ shadowing requirements in the ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools. This shadowing does not have to be part of a formal program, however, and so activities such as volunteering in a dental clinic, where you have the chance to observe dentists as they work, will count for this. The most common way to gain shadowing experiences is to contact dentists or dental offices directly. 

NOTE: The University of Michigan School of Dentistry created a virtual course, called Dentistry 101, and made it available on Coursera in February 2019.   The course is designed to be useful to a wide range of people, including beginners who would like to know more about the dental profession before committing to it and those who are already sure it’s the right path for them (it includes comments from UM Dental’s own Director of Admissions).  The course consists of approximately 10 hours of content (all online) and can be taken for free. It is also possible to pay for a certificate of completion, which can then be listed on your dental school application.

Other resources for shadowing include:

Pre-Pharmacy Shadowing

If you are preparing to apply to PharmD programs, shadowing is less likely to be required, but it’s always a good idea and will help your application. Try to get experience with both clinical pharmacists and retail pharmacists.  For clinical pharmacy shadowing experiences you might need to work through a hospital’s volunteer office.

  • Check the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Pharmacy School Admission Requirements to see if your target school requires shadowing.
  • Some pre-pharmacy students work as pharmacist assistants to get a sense of the professional environment before applying.

Pre-Optometry Shadowing

Optometry schools are likely to either require or strongly recommend shadowing. It is always  a good idea to shadow more than one practitioner (e.g. in a classic retail setting and in a more clinical setting), but shadowing is defined rather loosely, so volunteer work can in some cases count. The primary mode for getting a shadowing experience is to approach an optometrist (perhaps your own) directly.  

Pre-PA Shadowing

Because PA programs emphasize actual clinical experience, shadowing is far less likely to be required. That said, as you begin to prepare, it’s a good idea to contact some physician assistants to see if they will allow you to shadow them, so you can get a sense of the profession and whether it suits you.

Pre-Nursing Shadowing

While nursing schools do recommend or require patient interaction that will allow them to get a sense of your comfort with and capacity for caregiving, formal shadowing is not likely to be required as a prerequisite for admission.

Pre-Veterinary Shadowing

Formal shadowing is not likely to be required, specifically, but check your target schools to be sure. Instead, requirements are phrased in terms of clinical hours. It’s important to try to get clinical hours involving both small and large animals.