You probably opened this post thinking “What? Work shadowing is disregarded by medical schools?” That’s exactly what I thought when I heard this for the first time at university open days. So what exactly is it that’s disliked about shadowing? And what would medical schools prefer to hear about from you?
Is shadowing important?
Don’t get me wrong, shadowing is still important. Work shadowing is the only way to get a true insight into medicine as a career. When you go to get experience at a hospital or GP, you won’t have any of the necessary clinical skills for you to deal with patients so the best experience you can hope for is to watch a qualified practitioner carry out the interactions. This is a vital part in helping you to understand what the role of a doctor is, how the healthcare system works and also appreciate some of the challenges faced by healthcare professionals.
So what’s wrong with shadowing?
Yes, from shadowing a doctor you learn the importance of compassion, communication, working in a team, effective leadership skills but that’s all. You haven’t demonstrated that you are able to communicate well or that you are compassionate by nature. Simply watching a doctor treat a patient doesn’t prove that you have a natural desire to want to help people. Shadowing does give you an invaluable insight, but not any hands on experience.
What would be better than shadowing?
It’s understandable that you clearly can’t gain any hands on experience from your work experience, but that’s what your voluntary work is for. Taking up a voluntary post at a hospice or a nursing home would be the ideal experience. Here you can talk to the patients/residents and reflect on your communication and listening skills. By taking up a caring role like this you are also demonstrating that you do truly have a compassionate nature.
But that’s not the only experience that’s acceptable, just about anything that you have done which you can use to demonstrate that you have these skills. Remember to showcase that you have had a caring role, whether that’s from a personal experience or as a volunteer.
So what should you write about then?
In your personal statement you can write about some of the shadowing did, because that shows that you’ve explored Medicine as a career and considered whether it is going to be right for you, but don’t exhaust it endlessly listing every single one. Medical schools don’t exactly want to know the ins and outs of who you watched, doing what, where.
They’re far more interested in the skills you have to offer – so make sure you demonstrate that you understand the skills you’ll need and evidence situations when they were vital for you to use. You want to focus on showcasing all the experience you’ve had which proves that you have all the right qualities to be a doctor.
Here are some key qualities you might want to have a think about having an active role involving: caring, communication, resilience, leadership, teamwork, empathy.