July 1st marks the beginning of intern year for residents but they aren’t the only new faces in the hospital. The summer months are also the perfect time for premed undergrad students to get into the hospital for summer shadowing experiences. Shadowing experience gives premed students valuable clinical experience. Not to mention it’s essential to any medical school application. You probably have heard this before, or at least I hope you have, but in case you haven’t here’s how you can get the most out of your shadowing experience in the hospital.
Pursue what interests you, be curious, and ask questions
There’s nothing more refreshing than a young mind excited to learn. Your vigor makes it fun to work with you and a positive attitude makes me want to teach you more. You need to help me help you learn by actively asking questions so that we can direct your learning experience. It also further shows that you are actually interested in the field of medicine. So screw the cat- be curious and ask questions.
Put away your phone
Like it or not, people assume you are texting when you are on your phone. I’ve been victim to nurse technicians and attending physicians reprimanding me for ‘being on my phone’ even though I was actually researching information pertinent to our patient. Many people don’t mind when you quickly Google pertinent topics but rather play it safe than sorry. As a guideline keep your phone in your pocket and instead carry a small pen and pad with you in the hospital. Write down what you don’t know and Google it when you go home.
Don’t fall asleep
It happens by accident more often than you think. You finally get to sit down on a comfy couch after a long day on your feet in a comfortably warm room. Someone starts lecturing and their voice soothes you into slumber (Its like they want you to fall asleep!). Fight the urge and stay awake.
Look the part
You don’t need to wear a suit and tie but you should look presentable. When in doubt always overdress than underdress. You can always loosen a tie or take off a jacket but it’s hard to cover up your sneakers. In general, don’t look like you just woke up. At least put a comb through your hair before you show up. These are common sense things but it seems that common sense isn’t so common.
Medicine is an intimate art. People discuss things about themselves that they don’t tell anyone else or things that most people just straight up don’t want to know. So remember to treat your patient with respect and dignity regardless if you’re talking about their bowel movements or their cancer regiment.
Find a mentor
Much of what I just mentioned is about how you are perceived by your patients and the doctor you are shadowing. Instead of trying to conform to how others want you to act you should set your own standard that you hold yourself against. The best way to do this is to find a mentor who you want to be like when you’re a doctor. I’ve found several. I look up to an ICU/trauma surgeon who is able to apply mechanistic knowledge of disease processes to treat his patients, a cardiologist able to diagnose diseases with the use of his hands and stethoscope alone, and countless other individuals whose personal attributes I have grown to value. These attributes, like having a vast knowledge of medicine and the ability to apply that knowledge, won’t last unless you want them to. They are life long personality traits that you have to start developing now. So find someone who motivates you to be a better you and start the process towards becoming a physician today.