Finding a Physician to Shadow

How can I find a physician to shadow if I don't get into MedPrep II?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions by students. Unfortunately, outside of MedPrep II, there are no formal shadowing programs that exist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital (BJH). If a student is unable to secure a spot in MedPrep II, however, there are a few other options:

1.  For physicians NOT in St. Louis: Consider Joining Linkedin.com, an active professional network. Once on, join the "Washington University in St. Louis Alumni Association" (11,000+ members) as well as the  "Wash University Alumni Association in XXX." Also network with fellow students, parents, parents’ friends, former supervisors, etc., the list is endless. Once you have established some connections, then do an Advanced Search. Fill out the parameters for school (Washington University in St. Louis), location (enter XXX zip code) and enter a keyword like "medicine." This will generate a list of WU alum in the xxxx area that are in the field of medicine. Introduce yourself and state that you are a current WU student and what your goals are. If you need further help with using Linkedin.com, then go to the Career Center in DUC 110 and ask to see a Career Peer between the hours of 11a-5pm Mon-Fri. No appointment is needed to see a Career Peer. They could show you how to maximize your use of this tool. Alternately, you could make an appointment with an advisor and meet on an individual basis for approximately 45 minutes

2.  For physicians at WUSM: Review the WUSM Faculty List by DepartmentChoose a specialty of interest to you and contact them individually. Be aware that you will not know if the physician is on clinical service and it can take 2-3 weeks to respond to emails that do not have to do with patient care responsibilities. Use the WU home page directory to locate the physician's email address, as many departments do not publish physician email address on the internet.

3.  Ask those physicians you already know: your pediatrician, general practitioners that your family uses, or specialists that you or your family or friends have seen. If you have a connection, even if it is a patient-physician connection, this might be a higher yield in having your request granted.

Have a resume prepared and attach it to the email/written request. Resume formatting is also something that the Career Center's Career Peer could help you with.

Be aware that some hospital, clinics and physician practice will ask for some or all of the following list: completed application to shadow; proof of up to date immunization including Hepatitis B vaccine series (9 months to complete); current Influenza vaccine when in season (October-March); 1 or 2 tier PPD (skin test for Tuberculosis done once or twice one week apart) and if PPD is + copy of the report of a negative chest x-ray; criminal background check, drug screening  (urine usually reflects the recent past (days-weeks). Hair can reflect the last 6 months. You will likely be asked to pay for the TB/background screen/drug screen. You may be required to complete HIPAA  (Health Information Privacy Act training) training. Many private physician offices do not have a method of providing this to non-employees so you can offer to complete the (free to students) WU on line HIPAA tutorial. (Contacting Erin Gerrity or Jessica Ochoa in the Biology Department if you have not already done this in Bio 265, MedPrep or PEMRAP or via prior hospital volunteering.) HIPAA training is not generally 'transferable' between hospitals or clinics as each entity is required to meet this federal requirement.

Lastly, be cognizant of what your role is in clinical observation. Ask questions during down time and not in front of patients. Dress and carry yourself professionally.

4.  Another possible option for shadowing would be through volunteer work. While the work itself won't likely involve shadowing, getting a volunteer position will allow you to get immersed in the hospital environment and allow you to interact with patients and/or other members of the healthcare team. In time, this can lead to more formalized shadowing experiences simply through the contacts you make on the job. Click here, for more information about volunteering at Barnes-Jewish Hospital (adult hospital). To learn more about volunteering at St. Louis Children's Hospital, click here

5.  While not a shadowing program, PEMRAP will allow you to get into the hospital environment while becoming a member of a clinical research team, thus also giving you the chance to see what physicians are doing on a daily basis. You will still be able to list the shadowing component of this experience in the activities list on your AMCAS application to medical school. You will just need to clarify that this experience was part of the PEMRAP experience. 

Finally, the key to finding a shadowing position is to go about it in an organized fashion and giving yourself time to do it. Like just obtaining a research position or summer job, you don't want to wait until the last minute. You should start looking about 3 months prior to when you would like to start.

- Joan Downey, MD and Gregory Polites, MD