If you are anticipating applying for admission to medical school, one very important part of your portfolio should include clinical observations or shadowing. Volunteering and direct patient care are not interchangeable terms with clinical observations or shadowing. During a shadowing assignment you are observing a healthcare physician or professional provide treatment, diagnosis and care to patients in a clinic. Clinic situations may include hospital, rehabilitation and long-term care facilities, private practice and / or therapy clinics. Shadowing provides you, the aspiring medical student, the opportunity to watch day-to-day duties involved in a given health situation.
Many health care programs expect and may require that if you are considering going into the medical field you use clinical observation before you apply to medical school. Most medical school programs do not specifically request shadowing as an admission requirement, but it is strongly recommended that those students shadow a medical professional.
When to Shadow
After your freshman or sophomore years of pre-med studies you should arrange shadowing experiences during your semester and summer breaks. Shadowing opportunities will also help you establish time management and good study habits as you plan your time to include work, study and medical experiences.
Clinical observations are the best method to determine if the daily tasks and responsibilities of the medical field are for you. You can determine if you have the attitude, aptitude and dedication to attend medical school and focus on the joys of helping others in clinical and field settings.
Shadowing experiences will help you build a portfolio of credibility. You will able to show admission committees that you have researched the medical field, garnered valuable experience, and actually discussed medicine as a career with specialists and practicing physicians. Added benefits may include letters of recommendation, admission interviews, and help with your own personal statements.
If able, shadow a variety of clinical and medical settings. You should shadow in-patient or hospital situations, out- patient or clinic settings as wells as ICU, ER (emergency room), family and pediatric practices. These types of observation experiences will give you a rounded experience to determine what type of medical practice you want to specialize.
Do keep a journal of your shadowing experiences. You may want to ask the attending physician if it is okay to bring pad and pencil in to observations. This is the perfect method to learn more about the medial field and to prove to announcements boards that you actually attaining shadowing session and have a high interest in medical procedures.
Be aware of HIPAA laws since you may be privy to discussions with patients that are highly confidential. To ensure that you are following the rules of the observation setting take an online course to understand how, when and why in regards to patient confidentiality and record security. HIPAA classes include health care regulations, privacy rules, security rules and implementation as well as enforcement and penalties for breaches of confidentiality. Undergoing HIPAA training will prove to both the shadowing clinic and the medical school admission board you dedication to the medical profession.