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How can I shadow a doctor as a high school student?

I am a 16-year-old rising high school senior (current junior). I have been involved in various STEM activities throughout my academic career and I am interested in the medical field.

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Michelle’s Answer

Hello, Navya !

Shadowing a medical doctor can be difficult because shadowing means that you would be sitting there with the doctor while they are working on/with patients. There is a difference between shadowing and volunteer work which I think advisor Joel has wonderfully illustrated in his advice to you. It is clear that just being around a medical facility, doing reception or clerical work, will give you a good experience even if you are not looking at patients as they are being treated by a doctor. It's very important to get the feel of the medical environment and I would use the word volunteer work instead of "shadowing" because the basic meaning of shadowing is that you are with a professional watching them work. With a doctor, this would mean breaking the patients' privacy, but do not worry, you'll have your chance in medical school to work on Standardized Patients yourself during your course exams.

I have left some resources for you below. The last link has a couple of places at which you could do volunteer work with Alzheimer patients. Instead of shadowing, I advise that you look into which volunteer work would give you the opportunity to be around patients or clients. I know that sometimes in nursing homes they have an Intergenerational Program at schools where the middle and high school students visit a nursing home and give friendly visitation to the residents. Try to find an opportunity to do something like that which will get you used to a medical environment and one on one contact with clients/patients or residents in a nursing home.

So my advice is to forget shadowing and go straight forward with actual volunteer work which would give you actual involvement. You can figure out when and how often you would like to do the volunteer work and there seems to be an abundance of opportunity for this in Austin.

I hope that this will help and I wish you all the best !

Michelle recommends the following next steps:

HEALTHCARE VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES IN AUSTIN https://volunteeratx.com/volunteer-healthcare-austin-tx/
HOSPITAL VOLUNTEER WORK IN AUSTIN https://willpeachmd.com/hospital-volunteer-austin
VOLUNTEER MATCH FOR AUSTIN, TX https://www.volunteermatch.org/search?l=Austin,+TX,+USA
VOLUNTEER WORK AT HOPE MEDICAL CLINIC IN AUSTIN https://www.hopeclinicaustin.org/volunteer
VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES IN AUSTIN https://communityimpact.com/features/2016/12/14/heres-list-nonprofits-volunteer-opportunities-central-austin/
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Karissa’s Answer

Find a large hospital in your area. On their website look for HR (Human Resources) or Employment or Careers or Work for us. Find their phone number on the site. Call and ask about how you can do this. It won't be easy. Becoming a doctor is difficult and only the students who are diligent starting now will make it.

Karissa recommends the following next steps:

Ask your Pediatrician. If they know you well the may help.
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Anubha’s Answer

Hello! Good for you for having that initiative. You will learn a lot about yourself and about your prospective career, and set yourself apart from your competitors.

While Privacy Act hurdles are present they are hurdles not blocks. If the doctor or the employer/company the doc works for accepts you, you are set. I suggest learning a little about HIPPA and bringing it up. For example, “I respect the privacy of your patients and I am familiar with HIPAA guidelines, in addition I am happy to take any HIPAA training you may need me to. “

When you shadow and see a patient with the doctor, the
patient will always be asked if this is ok first and 90%will say yes.

You should always thank the patient at the end. Saying “Thank you for allowing me in, I appreciate you helping me learn” ..and a smile.. is great. Good Luck!
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Martin’s Answer

Fantastic concept and an excellent query! Previously, it was as simple as just posing a question, but now, with the introduction of HIPPA regulations, it's a bit more challenging. However, the approach remains unchanged. Your task is to locate a doctor who is open to having you shadow them. You might need to secure parental consent, or there could be some paperwork to fill out, but these are minor hurdles that shouldn't deter you from your shadowing experience. You can also reach out to a guidance counselor or the school nurse, as they might have relevant contacts or be eager to assist you in reaching this objective. Also, reach out to your physician because they may be able to assist or know someone who can. Just remember, never abandon this brilliant idea.
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Joel’s Answer

Hey Navya, thank you for your question! As someone who is currently in college and pursuing medical school, I think I can help with this question!

In high school I did an internship with a local dermatology office. I shadowed the doctor, worked on medical records, took patient calls, and basically did a fair share of office work. I did learn a lot about the dermatology side of medicine, and overall it was an amazing experience that I highly encourage you to explore.

Now, how was I able to earn this type of experience? To put it simple, I called about 30 different medical practices in my area until at least 1 of them were interested in letting me shadow. I found out that showing passion and enthusiasm to learn can go a long way, and that most doctors are very willing to work with you. I would suggest calling around and asking if any of the providers you call, would be willing to let you shadow them. If there's a particular medical field you are interested in, I would call those types of practices first, because you truly do learn a lot.

I hope this answer helps, and I believe that you can do it! Anyone is capable of achieving their dreams, you are just as deserving as the next person is.

Joel recommends the following next steps:

Step 1: Take a breath, and tell yourself that you can do it.
Step 2: If you can get ahold of a phone, call different medical practices around your area and ask if they have shadowing opportunities.
Step 3: Listen to what they say, and take any necessary notes you may need over the phone.
Step 4: Rock your shadowing opportunity and be ready to learn!
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Alexandra M. S.’s Answer

Check if your high school has a UBMS program. It stands for Upward Bound - Math Science. This program is at high schools all over the U.S. and they often let students join the program to try job shadowing in careers like Health Care, Information Technology, Health Technology, and more. The staff of UBMS should be able to give you good information even if their program is full.
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