How Many Shadowing Hours Do You Need for Medical School?

On your journey toward becoming a doctor, you’re going to participate in something called pre-health shadowing (also called pre-med shadowing). This experience allows you to spend time in a medical setting and closely observe a licensed U.S. physician. You’ll follow them through their daily responsibilities, including interacting with patients and providing care. You can even experience different medical specialties and environments.

Note that shadowing is not the same as clinical experience. Shadowing is passive. You’ll be standing off to the side and behaving as an observer, not an active participant. Clinical experience, however, means you’re directly interacting with patients. You will need both to become a successful doctor.

pre-med student shadowing doctor

How Many Hours of Shadowing Will Be Required?

As shadowing is a requirement, how many hours do you need for medical school? The answer is… there’s no single answer. Some medical schools simply suggest shadowing. Others require it but don’t place an exact number of hours on it. And others still might give you a minimum requirement. 

First, remember that any hours you’ve collected through clinical experience or volunteering might not count. Whatever medical schools you’re considering applying to, see what their rules and requirements are.

If a school gives you a minimum number of hours, then your answer is clear-cut. If they ask for shadowing experience but don’t specify a number, then aiming for something around 100 is usually a safe bet. It’s a smart idea to split these hours up between different specialists.

The quality of your experience is as important as the number of hours you spend shadowing. Choose opportunities that you’re highly interested in so that when it comes time to start filling out applications, you have genuine experiences to speak on. 

While it can be easier to get your 100 hours in than it might seem, it’ll still behoove you to start shadowing early! You might be able to get 10 hours done in a day, or you might only get four or five. You might hit your 100 hours and decide you want more. Give yourself enough time to complete your pre-health shadowing experience on your own terms.

And importantly, remember that you still need to maintain rock-solid grades. All the shadowing in the world won’t compensate for a poor performance in school.

pre-med students studying in the library

How to Get Shadowing Hours

Do you have a good relationship with your own physician? This might be a good place to start. You can also approach any other doctors you’ve volunteered or worked with.

These same people can also refer you to physicians who are open to having premed students shadow them. When you approach a physician, be sure to explain why you’re interested in their specialty. Briefly share your experience thus far, as well as your goals in medicine. Try to stay flexible with your schedule so that it’s also convenient for them.

Shadowing is just one element of getting into the medical school of your dreams. Your clinical clerkship is also vital. CHHA can help. Apply now and learn how we can help you build a competitive US residency application as an IMG.

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