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Job Shadowing in Healthcare and Medical Sciences

Do you dream of being an active part of the medical field, but only know about it from what you have heard from friends or seen on television or in the movies? Then perhaps it’s time to do some job shadowing. Job shadowing is a powerful way to come face-to-face with what it takes for the kind of healthcare career you have been thinking of, or perhaps it can simply help you explore a variety of healthcare career options.

What is job shadowing?

Job shadowing is taking the opportunity to observe first-hand what someone in a particular career actually does on a daily basis. You will have the opportunity to ask questions, watch, learn and possibly participate in the work environment.

How is job shadowing different than an internship?

A job shadowing experience does not involve earning credit for college, getting paid for experience nor is it a lengthy time commitment.

PPCC Resources

While PPCC does not have a formal job shadowing program, we want to guide you in how you can move toward job shadowing experiences. Look for opportunities to ask about job shadowing at PPCC career fairs, information sessions and open houses.

Many healthcare sites require a document called an Attestation Form. This is a document that provides confirmation that a student has done background checks and drug testing and is current on their vaccinations/shots and insurance. PPCC students may get this form processed through the Health and Sciences Division and should contact them directly at 719-502-3400. Depending upon site availability, requests may not be approved by host site. Not all sites allow shadowing. Students may not get into the site of their choice due to availability at their requested site.

Patient Privacy

Job shadowing in the healthcare field may have some roadblocks due to Health Information Privacy laws (HIPPA). Some organizations or facilities will not permit job shadowing due to the restrictions regarding patient information or because they do not know you. If you cannot obtain a job shadowing opportunity at one place, you can certainly try to find another organization to explore. Do not be put off from further exploration because one organization or individual says no. You may have greater access by requesting job shadowing experiences from an acquaintance, friend or relative in the field who knows and trusts you.

Some healthcare organizations may require you to sign a patient confidentiality agreement.

How long can/should job shadowing be?

Typically it is a day long. But, if more time is available or offered, it could be longer. Keep in mind that they are voluntarily offering access to their work lives and environments as a service to you.

The Nuts and Bolts of Job Shadowing

Do your research. Explore the job requirements and skills through the sources listed above. Explore job postings and their application requirements. Prepare good questions in advance so that you can demonstrate your serious interest in this career.

Start by talking with your friends and acquaintances about opportunities. If you do not have anyone connected to the healthcare field in your circle of friends or family, start by contacting the Human Resources office of the organization in which you wish to job shadow. Identify yourself as a PPCC student and that may open doors for you as well.

Otherwise, after you’ve done your good research, follow the 8 steps from “How to Ask to Job Shadow” by Irene A. Blake, Demand Media

Step 1

Prepare a letter on your computer starting with the date and the name and address of the person you’re hoping to shadow and then follow it with a formal salutation of “Dear,” an honorific such as “Mr.” “Mrs.” or “Ms.” and the person’s surname followed by a comma.

Step 2

Write an introductory paragraph explaining who you are, how you were referred to the letter recipient, the reason you’re writing and what you hope to accomplish career-wise by shadowing.

Step 3

Follow with the amount of time -- half-day, day or longer -- you desire to shadow, as well as a request to conduct an informational interview for about 15 or 20 minutes afterward to ask questions about the experience.

Step 4

Acknowledge in the next paragraph that you know you’re asking a lot. Emphasize that you believe strongly that shadowing can help you discover more about yourself and your career path and that you would appreciate any assistance.

Step 5

Express your appreciation for the time the recipient has taken to read your letter and consider your request.

Step 6

Mention in the last paragraph that you plan to contact the recipient in about a week and then offer your phone number and email address so s/he can contact you if s/he has questions before s/he can reach a decision.

Step 7

Close the letter with another thank-you and a formal valediction such as “Sincerely” or “Respectfully” and your full name.

Step 8

Send the letter via postal mail or email to the professional as well as to the person who referred you, if applicable. Wait for a reply to your request or follow-up in a week to determine interest and attempt to schedule a shadow date.

Taking the Opportunity

When you are successful in obtaining a job shadowing experience, prepare well. Dress professionally, make a list of career-appropriate questions, don’t ask about pay and benefits (that comes much later in the job search process), and be respectful and not intrusive. Remember you are there to learn and observe.

Enjoy the opportunity to find out what your career choice in the healthcare field really looks like through valuable job shadowing experiences!

(Sources and further reading: MonsterCollege Foundation of North Carolina)