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To follow up on one of my previous questions about shadowing, how long should you shadow a professional? A few weeks? Months?

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Subject: Career question for you

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Brenda’s Answer

While any time shadowing is a benefit, the longer you can do it, the better. With that said, go in with a plan. Have questions prepared and but be mindful that while the individual is allowing you a front line view of their day, don't get in the way of them doing their jobs. Try to wait until they have time to answer the questions that you have.

Some of my students have shadowed for a week and it was enough for them to completely change their major and know they wanted to do something different. Some have shadowed for 3 days and learned quite a bit, while others have shadowed for 6 weeks.

The most important things are that you learn something about the position, the industry, and yourself. Remember, you can learn about more than technical skills, but you can learn soft skills such as patience, organization, time management, strategic planning, etc.

No matter the time you spend with a company remember that you are working to build your network and you also want to make a good impression. As far as medical school, you will have a lot of time working in a hospital so when you ask this question, it sounds like you are probably an undergrad. Due to HIPAA compliance, it is not a lot that you will be able to experience due to confidential laws, but you can always ask to speak with them and do an interview to ask questions. If you are an actual pre-med student, they can allow you to come into the room, but its up to the patient to allow you to stay.

Much appreciated! Zemira M.

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Yasemin’s Answer

Hi Zemira! I am attaching a link below from and another website that really explains the details of shadowing. I'll also add my own input as well but there are some different opinions I heard. I think it would be best to shadow a couple of months and really get the experience and show commitment. That will allow you to build a stronger relationship and discuss your experience more; I understand that are many other commitments in a student's life but if you can even shadow during break like summer or winter then that would help as well! You can shadow a couple hours a week for a couple months to build that experience and I think that will help in building a stronger application as well. You will be able to see the inner of a physician but remember I would also recommend clinical volunteering to have a diverse experience of working directly with patients!

Best of luck!

Yasemin recommends the following next steps:

Thank you! Zemira M.

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Liam’s Answer

Shadowing is a good way to gain practical experience in a supervised environment. How long you do it could depend on a number of things. Requirements of progressing in a trade/profession/learning track or Gaining some perceived competency level, either self-evaluated or demonstration to others probably covers most. You can't do much of about the requirement part, but you can have an effect on the competencies gained. A bunch of smart people put together the Stages of Learning based off of the Four stages of Competence. Some people progress faster than other through the stages. So know yourself and respect the lack of competency risks of your profession. An incompetent fry-cook has less impact than an incompetent architect!

The Stages of Learning

Four stages of Competence
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Estelle’s Answer

I recommend shadowing for weeks, not months. As a physician who lets students shadow, I can say that it is nice when they let me know their expectations and length of time desired. I think shadowing a variety of providers/specialties is very valuable as well.
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Bryce’s Answer

Hi Zemira,

Shadowing is a great way to get a feel for what a career entails. The longer you can shadow the better. That being said I still think a few weeks is plenty of time to get a feel for what a job has to offer, but if you can do longer than why not. Shadowing also presents you an opportunity to build relationships within your desired field, and this can be beneficial for you down the line when it comes to looking for a job.