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How do I get the opportunity to shadow someone?

I want to shadow a physician assistant, nurse practitioner, dieticians, and registered nurse (and maybe even a therapist). How do I do that? If anyone is one of the professions in Chicago please let me know if I can shadow you! Also are there any internships in the medical field! Thank you!
#healthcare #medical #nurse #doctor #physicianassistant #nursepractitioner #dietician #medicine

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Kerrie’s Answer

To shadow a healthcare professional in the field, you usually have to be a student enrolled in a healthcare program for that area of study before the organization will allow you to observe because of patient HIPPA rules and confidentiality. The organization will also have to have you verify that you are up-to-date on your immunizations and then fill out paperwork stating you will adhere to HIPPA rules and regulations and not share any patient-specific information.
You can also start out small and get you CNA and work in a local nursing home or hospital and see first-hand how RNs, dieticians, PTs, etc all work with the patients. Or you check with your local hospital to see if they have programs for students to shadow in areas and go that route, it is like volunteering, but still allows you to have a first-hand experience with the field that interests you.
My suggestion would be to research the area the interests you the most, and then try to find an internship in that area that interests you the most. An internship may or may not offer compensation during the time you spend with them but it is a great way to get an inside look at the specific field you want to study in-depth. I did a nursing internship (paid) at Mayo clinic before my last year of nursing school for a summer and it was amazing! I was placed in the OR and really found out how much I loved the OR. After graduation, I worked in Med-Surg and Peds for a few years, then found a hospital that took on nurses to show them how to work in the OR and I spent the next 25 years honing my practice in surgery!
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Richard’s Answer

Volunteer at your local hospital or low-income clinic. Ask the physicians, PAs or other clinical providers at the clinic if you can shadow. Also ask for help from family and friends to see if any of them know a physician who would be amenable to being shadowed.
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Sarah’s Answer

Hi, Miriam! PA here. Kerrie is right that a lot of facilities have somewhat stringent rules about who can shadow a provider, if anyone. Patient privacy is sacred in medicine, and HIPAA is a big deal. Some facilities like to err on the side of extreme caution about who can be in a patient room, understandably.

That said, I’ve worked in family medicine for 10 years (and the medical field 16 years), and several of the places I’ve worked have allowed pre-PA students to shadow. In my experience, the smaller the practice, the more likely the providers and the practice are to feel comfortable letting someone where you are in your training tag along. In addition to precepting advanced practitioner students, I’ve had a handful of college (and even 2 high school) students shadow me.

What worked for them was to approach me or my supervising physician directly. We remember what it was like to be you and are usually much more open to having you than if you were to call to speak to the office manager. I wouldn’t recommend calling the office manager. Her/his job is to say no to a lot of things, especially things that bring risk to the practice. (In my experience, students who shadow pose very little risk, though. But be ready to jump through some hoops.)

Before I go on, I want to say that it’s great, and I suppose preferable, to shadow a PA, specifically. You want to know what it’s like to be one, after all. But if one’s not available, don’t miss out on an opportunity to shadow a nurse practitioner or physician. Most of what we do with patient care is the same. You’ll get much the same perspective either way.

Four ways that come to mind that you might be able to score a shadowing experience would be:

1) Join a pre-healthcare professionals organization. HOSA/“Future Health Professionals” is available for high school students. Most universities have a pre-med club, for example. There may even be a teacher or someone on faculty at your school who could help introduce you to a provider willing to have you. My university had a pre-PA club. This was back before HIPAA was widely applied to mean “no students!” (I’m showing my age here…), but I was the coordinator of the shadowing program we had. We had a list of “cool” PAs and physicians that accepted college students to shadow. A lot of us “older” providers went through training before HIPAA and shadowed providers before entering the medical field. Many of us, myself included, are fond of returning the favor.

2) (Respectfully) approach providers directly. If you have a PA, NP, or physician you feel comfortable asking if you could shadow her/him or one of their colleagues, you could do that at your next appointment. You could even tag along to a family member’s appointment and ask their provider, if you’re comfortable. It doesn’t work every time, but sometimes it does. Sometimes, if you ask, they might have an idea of who else you might be able to shadow, too.

3) LinkedIn. I’ve had SEVERAL students approach me on LinkedIn over the last couple of years, pre-PA and advanced practitioner students alike, asking if they could shadow me. I knew neither them nor anyone in their networks. They just found me through a search and took a chance. Sometimes I can accommodate them, sometimes I can’t, but I’m always happy to consider it!

4) Think about the larger group of acquaintances you have. Reach out to your religious community, neighbors, your relative’s friends, your friends’ family members, etc. You might have some luck reaching out to an advanced practitioner or physician you might know (or indirectly know) that way.

The other thing that comes to mind, if a provider can’t have you shadow them but is open to helping you, you could offer to buy them lunch. Ask them about their job, what they like, what they don’t, if they’d do it again, what they recommend you do to prepare yourself, etc. A lot of us are busy at lunch charting, but those of us with a soft place in our hearts for students might be open to sitting down with you for a 10-20 minute chat on their lunch break. After all, some of us make time for drug reps at lunch--talking over lunch is not a foreign concept to us!
It never hurts to ask, Miriam! The more lines you drop, the more providers willing to let you shadow you’ll catch. Just be polite and ready to graciously accept no for an answer.

You probably already have a sense of this, but when you do shadow, it’s generally best to save your questions for the provider for outside of and away from the exam room. And try to avoid interrupting charting. Just be your sweet, polite, thoughtful self.

I don’t know about internships. Interesting question. There’s nothing like that for pre-PA high school or college students PA (or pre-meds), unfortunately. There may be something in an adjacent medical field, but I don’t have any direct knowledge of that. Sorry I can’t help you there. But don’t forget you can also volunteer or work part-time in the medical field for experience, too.

Best of luck to you!

Sarah recommends the following next steps:

Join a pre-healthcare professionals group . Pre-med, pre-PA, general health professions, etc.--whatever you have access to.
Talk to your provider(s) (or your family members') to see if you can shadow them, or if they know of someone else who might be able to have you.
Tap LinkedIn as a resource to find providers to shadow.
Network within your community.
Consider other sources to gain medical experience.
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Rachel’s Answer

Shadowing is a great idea. If you have any teachers with connections to the healthcare field, they would be a good place to start when looking for shadowing opportunities. Additionally, you could contact your own PCP and ask about shadowing him/her.
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Mark’s Answer

Well, to be a Therapist is a long road, I would say about a minimum of 4 years of college + maybe 2-4 years of a specialization program. But you can always start with shadowing people in that field or even taking up an unpaid internship. I would call around to different businesses and see if they are taking anyone with no experience. Or also try linked in to find someone in the field to talk to; maybe they will have some more help and be able to have a quick phone call with you.
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Sana’s Answer

I first shadowed a nurse as a senior in high school. I was a volunteer at the medical library inside my local hospital for my junior and senior years of high school, and I called the hospital’s resources department and expressed my interest in the nursing profession and asked if I could shadow.

I wasn’t able to shadow a PA or a physician until my first semester at community college. The reason being is that doctors and PAs won’t typically let you shadow unless you are a pre-med student. However, you can always ask your family doctor if you can shadow them or anyone in their office for an hour or two. And if you have any family friends who are nurses, PA’s, or physicians you can always ask them as well. If you’re in a high school that has an academic advisor or student counselor I encourage you to express your interest in shadowing and see if they can find some local opportunities for you. Good luck!

PS. I just saw you are from Chicago. I went to school at Amundsen High School and volunteered at the medical library at Swedish Covenant Hospital my junior and senior years. If you’re close by, give them a call and ask about volunteering opportunities for high school students. Learn more here: https://swedishcovenant.org/swedish-covenant-hospital-foundation/volunteer-services/volunteer-opportunities

However, I HIGHLY recommended you apply for the summer internship for high school students at Lurie’s Children Hospital. That experience is what made me realize the medical field was my passion. See more information at: https://www.luriechildrens.org/en/ways-to-help/volunteer/become-a-hospital-volunteer/hospital-volunteer-programs/summer-only-opportunities/
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