Shadowing a Health Professional

Many health professional fields want to know if you understand the field that you are interested in and that type of knowledge can come from shadowing a professional in the field. For example, the 2015 data analysis of matriculating medical school students show that 94% have shadowed a physician or other healthcare professional. Shadowing opportunities can also be found in community service, internships, and volunteer opportunities. Students should double check in those areas when looking for shadowing opportunities.

For pre-health shadowing opportunities, click here.
To get contact information of practicing DOs in your area, click here.

Getting Started:

Think about what kind of professional you want to shadow and why you want to shadow them. Some possible outcomes of a shadowing experience include gaining clinical experience or getting a different perspective on your professional field of interest.

The following are considerations for those who are interested in shadowing a health professional. Be prepared for professionals to not allow you to shadow them. Some may not allow shadowing or others may believe there is too much legal risk. Keep trying!

The Ask:

The following are some considerations when asking a professional if you can shadow them:

  • Be sure to:
    • Research the professional before shadowing and ask about location, parking, or any other logistics you would need to know before going to shadow the professional.
  • Who to:
    • Try asking your family practitioner first.
    • Checking the phonebook or yellow pages may be a good place to start finding professionals.
    • Googling/Searching online hospital directories is also a good place to start finding professionals.
  • How to:
    • Have a high degree of professionalism when asking
    • Giving an updated resume or curriculum vitae (CV) to the professional is suggested when requesting to shadow a health professional.
    • Call or visit the professional. Sometimes emails may get lost or marked as spam.
    • State your career goals and why you would like to shadow them.

During the Shadowing Experience:

While you are shadowing a health care professional, here are some considerations:

  • Arrive 15 minutes early.
  • Have a high degree of professionalism in appearance, hygiene, clothing, and communication.
    • Some places may instruct you on what to wear, for example, if you need to wear scrubs.
    • Business attire is appropriate in most medical office settings.
    • Asking what the dress code beforehand may be helpful as well.
  • Keep a notepad or composition book.
    • Take notes during the shadowing experience.
    • Be sure to document the day, number of hours, facility, and any other important information so you can reflect on it later when applying for professional school.
  • Be ready to ask questions.
    • Think of some questions you would like to ask the health professional and try not to ask question you can simply find online.
    • Suggested Questions:
      • “What is your day to day routine like?”
      • “Why did you decide to pursue this field?”
  • Patient privacy is really important and may even be a reason you won’t be able to shadow some professionals.
    • Be sure to respect patient’s privacy.
    • Possibly educate yourself beforehand on privacy laws and HIPAA (Health Information Portability and Accountability Act).

After Shadowing:

Some considerations for after you shadowed a health care professional:

  • Be sure to write a “thank you” note.
  • If you have a good relationship with a professional you shadowed, possibly asking them for a letter of recommendation (LOR) is good for some professional schools require or recommend a LOR from a professional in that field.

Resources for Shadowing:

The American Osteopathic AssociationNational DirectoryEnter city and state or zip for contact information of practicing DOs in your area.
Gap MedicsContactCheck Website
Hawaii Pacific HealthHuman Resources Office
Proof of double negative TB results.
Send in immunization records.
Hawaii Pre-Health Career Corpsphcc@hawaii.edu1-Day shadowing for Corps members, up to 3 times/year. Must attend 1-on-1 HIPAA training.
Mark Kuioka, DDS, Honolulu, HawaiiMark Kuioka, mkuiokadds@gmail.comNo requirements, shadowing times available 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays
Sagawa Dental, Hilo, HawaiʻiDr. Kiana Shiroma,, 808-956-8646Every other month on a Wednesday for 1/2 a day
Western University of Health Sciences, College of Optometry
Raquel Barbosa,
Email and notify Raquel your desired place to shadow