Health Care Experience - Shadowing

Health Care Experience Shadowing Physicians or other Health Professionals

Shadowing a physician or health care provider allows you to observe what health care is like for a provider.   You may note their responsibilities, the communication skills they need for their area of medicine, the medical and psychological needs of the patients they serve and the challenges and rewards of their career.  Health professionals must be willing to take a great deal of responsibility for the lives of others.  Although no amount of volunteer work or shadowing will truly let you know how serious this responsibility can be, you will begin to have some appreciation for it by putting yourself in a clinical setting and seeing physicians work.   There are many changes occurring in the health care field and shadowing may help you to understand those changes and give you a more realistic, mature understanding of the field.  Shadowing can also give you confidence and enthusiasm that this is a career for you.

Shadowing may be done in many ways.  Sophomores, juniors, and seniors may shadow physicians at Duke for a few hours a week for 6 weeks through the Duke Student Volunteer Program.  Some students shadow physicians or other health care professionals outside of Duke but in the Durham area.  Many students do their shadowing at home during breaks and in the summer where they can shadow for longer periods and are not distracted by classes and activities.   For medical schools, there is no minimum number of hours.  Some students will shadow for 50 hours, others for many more and will shadow in several specialties (e.g. pediatrics, orthopedics, internal medicine) to see the different aspects of health care.  The more you shadow and observe, the more you will see, the more you will know that this is a career for you, and sometimes a health care provider will become a long-term mentor.

How to Shadow a Physician at Duke (a program only for Duke undergraduates)

To shadow a physician at Duke Hospital or other Duke location, you will need to complete online training.  This is a set of tutorials and quizzes you can find on AdviseStream. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors are eligible to apply for the shadowing matching program; it is competitive.  Shadowing is for 6 weeks, and is renewable for another 6 weeks. The training modules open in August and once you are approved, your approval will last until the following July.  Training must be repeated every August.  Training is not transferrable elsewhere and there is no certificate or other confirmation of your approval. If you decide to shadow at home during the summer or elsewhere, keep in mind that other hospitals may require their own training.

This is the procedure for shadowing at Duke: 

  1. Check your immunization records to be sure you are in compliance with requirements.
  2. Go to AdviseStream, watch the tutorials, do the quizzes.
  3. When you complete the tutorials and quizzes, our HPA Shadow Coordinator will check and give first approval.
  4. She will notify Student Health, where someone will confirm your immunization records and TB status.
  5. Once Student Health has approved, the Shadow Coordinator will send an email to the Clinical Education Director at Duke Hospital, who gives final approval.
  6. You will then be given access to the matching program, where you can find a list of specialties and available times for shadowing. You choose a specialty, find the physicians or other health professionals who are available, and contact them directly to make arrangements.
  7. However, note that if you are already working with a physician or health professional at Duke and wish to shadow them, and they are not in the shadowing database, you should do the Advisestream tutorials and then have your health professional notify the Shadow Coordinator that he/she is willing to allow you to shadow, and the Shadow Coordinator will manually match him/her with you.  Any Duke student (first-year students through seniors) can shadow in this way.

Because the process requires multiple approvals, it can take several weeks to complete.  If you have any questions or problems, contact the Health Professions Advising Office at 919-684-6221 or