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How many hours of shadowing do I need for medical school?

Physician Shadowing HoursShadowing is one of the most important activities you can participate in as a premed. Why? Because it allows you to develop an understanding of what it is a physician does on a day-to-day basis. I often say that shadowing is important not just for your medical school application, but for yourself. You need to understand what profession you’re getting involved in. You want to see just how much a physician works. You want to see patient-doctor interactions and understand if you like them or not. So, shadowing should not be thought of as something to simply do to improve your application, but instead should really be thought of as something to solidify your own interest in medicine.

So how much shadowing does one need and what types of experience should one have? This is a great question that a lot of people ask, and there’s no definitive answer for sure. However, we recommend a few different things.

1. A mix of specialities
one of the important things to keep in mind is that medicine is very very different depending on the specialty. A neurosurgeon has a completely different life than a pathologist was a completely different life than an family medicine physician. so how does one choose who shadow? The answer is you should try to get a variety of shadowing experiences through a mix of specialties. Makes an inpatient and outpatient specialties, surgical and nonsurgical specialties in order to really prove to schools that you’re interested in medicine, have a breath of experience, and most importantly so that you yourself can see the differences in how a physician practices across different spectrums.

2. Minimum number of hours?
the age-old question of the minimum number of hours that a student should spend shadowing is one that will always come up. I typically want students not to think about the exact number of hours, but more importantly to think about the experience that they’re getting. However, I understand that students are always anxious and always still want me to give them a quote of the minimum number of hours, so I typically quote approximately 25 total hours of shadowing experience across different specialties as the minimum I want to see prior to the student applying.