Making the most of your shadowing placement


Getting ready for your first few days on the wards? We've written some handy tips below to ensure you make the most of your shadowing placement. 

1. Introductions

It's common courtesy to introduce yourself to your doctor and their patients, first impressions are everything! If you're shadowing abroad then remember a couple of greetings in the local language goes a long way.


2. Be Professional

Don't forget the obvious considerations that apply during your clinical placement, such as dressing appropriately, being punctual and being professional at all times. It will also stand you in good stead to check any learning objectives before you arrive, so that you can be clear what is expected of you during the placement and what you should aim to achieve.


3. Take Notes

During your week on placement you're going to witness a lot of new things, including procedures and consultations. It's important that you draw back to this on during your medical school interview. Taking notes is the best way to ensure that you don't forget any important information. 

Note taking provides you will a useful record of information given to you and can help recall information later on. If we look at cognitive load theory, there is only so much information that you can hold in your working memory at any one time and only some of that information will go into your long term memory. Therefore, note taking can help you write down all of the information which you might not be able to digest at that moment in time, but it is there for when you need it. Furthermore, by selecting certain information to note down, you are focusing your attention on what you need to remember. 

Strategies for good note taking: 

  • Think before you write
  • Keep notes brief and organised
  • Write phrases, not sentences
  • Link your points

4. Any questions?

Your shadowing placement is a unique learning opportunity.  It can be revealing to ask slightly more direct questions – such as what they wish they had known when they started, or what the best and worst parts of the job are. You may find it prompts them to give you a heads up about any pitfalls or odd consultant preferences you may inadvertently fall foul of. Furthermore, during consultations remember to wait until the doctor has finished speaking to the patient. 


5. Expect the Unexpected

No two days are ever the same on the ward. No two patients have exactly the same need. Each day brings chances to learn new skills and gain a wealth of knowledge, professional and interpersonal qualities. Remember to embrace the unexpected before you start, you will see some things you never anticipated.