Shadowing a doctor before you apply for medical school is a really important experience to have; so important that many medical schools require you to have shadowing experience to be considered for admission. Doctors are depicted in so many different ways on TV shows or by other professionals, but you can’t really get a good idea of what it is like to be a doctor without shadowing. The longer you are able to shadow the doctor, the better idea you will have about what the profession is actually like. One thing to keep in mind, however, is the vast diversity of different medical specialties there are. If you shadow a dermatologist who works in an out-patient clinic, you are going to get a very different experience than if you were to shadow a trauma surgeon who works crazy hours and in very intense situations. You definitely do not need to know what specialty you want to do before you start medical school, but having a diverse experience shadowing doctors will help you to narrow it down.
In this day and age, it can be very difficult to obtain a shadowing experience. Depending on where you live or what kind of doctor you want to shadow, there are a lot of rules and regulations that hospitals set. You can contact your local hospital and doctors office and find out what you need to do to be able to shadow. Many pre-med programs will have contacts of doctors that are open to pre-med students shadowing. Don’t be afraid to call many different doctors and hospitals; I had to call around a lot before I finally found a few doctors that allowed me to shadow them. All in all, I am so glad that I did because it really solidified my decision to go into medicine.