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Hospital Shadowing: My Peers’ Mixed Results

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About Anne Marie

Anne Marie Conrad is a 2021 graduate of Purdue University’s College of Liberal Arts with degrees in Global Studies and Spanish along with a certificate in Medical Humanities. She has explored her passion for global healthcare by doing undergraduate research on best practices for provision of healthcare across language and cultural barriers. Anne Marie was an Atlantis Fellow to Valladolid, Spain during the Summer of 2019.

As a pre-med student, I’ve always found it helpful to hear from peers about what they’re doing and learning. Based on others’ experiences, I can know where to invest my time, what to avoid, and what to look out for to make my pre-med experiences as good as they can be. For this post, I asked six of my pre-med peers what their experiences were in shadowing and what they liked and disliked about them. I’ve compiled their responses here so you, like me, can learn from their experiences:

What Experiences Are Out There that You’ve Taken Advantage Of?

Between the seven of us, we’d shadowed specialists, emergency department physicians, primary care doctors, and DOs specializing in OMT. We’ve had experiences in large teaching hospitals, local clinics, private practices, and in international hospitals through an Atlantis 360 shadowing program. We’ve had opportunities to shadow in the emergency department, the NICU, the OR, and specialty consultations.

What Were Your Least Favorite Parts about Shadowing?

One of the most popular answers to this question was how difficult it is to find shadowing opportunities. One of my friends who is now a medical student at the Indiana University School of Medicine mentioned that it seemed to her that many doctors didn’t want to go through all of that hassle just for an undergraduate.

Another friend of mine who is now a medical student at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine expressed that most of his shadowing experiences were very passive. This was a common theme across the board. It was easy for many of us to feel in the way if we weren’t interacting with the physicians.

What Were Your Favorite Parts about Shadowing?

Over and over again, I heard something like, “shadowing in a clinical setting showed me what the day-to-day life of a physician looks like.” I think we appreciated this because it’s good to have an idea of what we’re getting ourselves into. It’s easy to have ideas in our head of what working in medicine looks like, but seeing it is important to make sure these ideas are realistic.

Another popular answer was that it reaffirmed students in their desires to pursue medicine as a career. Seeing up close what a career in medicine looks like was empowering for many of us to continue forward on our pre-med journeys. By shadowing doctors, we got a better look at the physician-patient relationship. We also got to see how all of the different roles in a care team work together and support each other.

One of the best parts of shadowing for many of us was the chance to learn. Sometimes, it really felt like the doctor cared to teach us. I, personally, had a little impromptu anatomy quiz while watching a wrist surgery. Another one of my friends came out of her shadowing experience with an in-depth knowledge of different stitching and suturing techniques and their specific uses.

Some of us had a personal preference for primary care and some for hospital shadowing, as well as particular preference for some specialties. These preferences definitely affected our respective experiences, so, while any shadowing can be beneficial, be sure to look for opportunities of specific interest to you.

In my personal experience, I was able to do most of my shadowing abroad through an Atlantis program. During this program I was in a teaching hospital and saw specialties of orthopedic surgery, cardiology, general surgery, and ophthalmology both in consultation and in surgery. Something that I particularly appreciated about my experience was that I got to avoid having to find individual shadowing opportunities. Based on my friends’ experiences, I frankly don’t think it would be possible for me to have experienced over 100 hours of four specialties in a hospital in the US.


I hope you can take from our experiences and make your shadowing experiences all the better. Knowing what to expect is sometimes half that battle, and will give you an opportunity to get the very most possible out of your experience.

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About Atlantis

Atlantis is the leader in pre-health shadowing and clinical experience, offering short-term programs (1-10 weeks) over academic breaks for U.S. pre-health undergraduates. Medical schools want 3 things: (1)healthcare exposure, (2)GPA/MCAT, and (3)certain competencies. Atlantis gives you a great version of (1), frees you to focus on (2), and cultivates/shows (3) to medical school admissions committees.

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Watch Video: The Atlantis Shadowing Experience and How it Helps In Your Med/PA Admissions Future

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Cover of the Medical School Admissions Guide.
Two Atlantis alumni admitted to Top 5 MD programs wrote our widely read medical school admissions guidebook — download yours.