by Isana Fils-Aime and Bianca Karmaker.
Shadowing can be a great tool to not only increase your clinical exposure but to also gain insight into a podiatrist’s professional life. When it comes to shadowing a podiatrist, whether affiliated with a residency program or not, there are a few key things to keep in mind in order to be well prepared and make the most out of your experience. Keep reading to find out about some of the do’s and don’ts when shadowing!
I. Do Research On Who You Are Shadowing.
It is best to do some form of research on the clinician that you will be shadowing that day. One does not want to ask questions about the clinician that could simply be searched on google such as “Which podiatry school did you attend?” or “Where did you do your residency?” Instead, use these as conversation starters. For example, “How did you feel your education from ___________ University prepared you for residency?” or “How did you feel your residency prepared you for the real world and your current practice?”
By doing this research, you appear interested in the clinician and make him or her feel valued. Also, you can find a commonality between the two of you, which you can use as a talking point for downtime in between patients or to help you prepare questions ahead of time. For example, if you notice during your research that the physician completed their residency at or within the same state of a program that you are interested in, then you could ask questions such as:
■ “I saw that you completed your residency at [name of program] in [year]. How was your residency experience at that time?” (“…and how did it prepare you for life in the real world?”)
■ “Do you feel that the program has changed since you have completed your residency?”
■ ”How would you compare your program to the other nearby programs in the state?”
When shadowing a physician for the first time, they could ask “Why did you decide to shadow me today?” If asked, you can use facts about the physician that you found during your research to provide a thoughtful response.
■ For example, you could say “I saw online that you obtained a fellowship in diabetic wound care and I have thoroughly enjoyed wound care while in school. I am also considering obtaining a wound care fellowship in the future and this is why I decided to shadow you today.”
II. Brush Up On Your Anatomy!
General Anatomy and Lower Extremity Anatomy are taken during your first year of podiatric medical school. These are easy topics to be asked about by clinicians. Be ready to be pimped, yet most clinicians do this in a non-threatening way to see what you know. If you don’t know the answer, it’s okay! It’s a segway into having the clinician teach you about a specific topic if you do not know the answer or need further clarification.
If they are associated with a residency program or you are visiting a residency program, check out that program on Quizlet. Sometimes students from previous visits or externships compile popular questions asked at that specific program in order to be more prepared. It never hurts to look.
Again if you don’t know the answer, it’s okay! It’s totally fine to say that you don’t know or don’t remember, but ALWAYS let them know you’re going to look it up and get back to them.
III. Always Inquire About The Dress Code For The Day of Your Visit.
The last thing you want is to be uncomfortable during a long day of shadowing. Depending on who you are shadowing and their schedule for the day, it may be more appropriate to wear scrubs and sneakers, or business casual. Thus, it is key to inquire about your attire prior to your visit. You can do this by sending a quick email to the person you have been in contact with to schedule the visit and they can find out for you.
IV. Be On Time (or Early)! — duh.
Better yet, it never hurts to arrive several minutes early and get settled in. Plan your commute and estimated traffic the night before so you don’t hit any “road bumps” the morning of. Tardiness is unprofessional and when the doctor has a full day of seeing patients, time is of the essence!
Fun Fact: My former boss connected me with a podiatrist when I was completing my undergraduate education and she scheduled a lunch meeting with him. I was 15 minutes late to the meeting due to poor planning and not factoring in traffic. The clinician was so upset with my tardiness that he left the office and told me to reschedule when I was “serious about learning about this profession.” Do not repeat my mistakes!
V. Don’t Use Your Phone!
It sounds simple, however, you would be surprised by how many students decide to scroll through Instagram when things get slow in the office. This looks bad. During ‘slow’ time in the office, this is your time to ask the clinician questions about the previous cases or ask any questions that you gathered during your research about the physician. If you really have to answer a phone call, excuse yourself politely. Being on your phone is not only unprofessional, but it gives off the impression that whatever is on your phone is more important than your current surroundings.
When it comes to searching something on your phone that you don’t know, always explain that you’re not sure or don’t know that answer and will get back to them about it. Then, when you have a minute to yourself, you can pull out your phone, search what you need to, and jot it down in your notebook, discreetly. You may also ask the clinician if you can use your phone to look up the topic that you did not know at an appropriate time.
VI. Always Introduce Yourself and Shake Hands.
You’re in a new setting and if you don’t know anyone yet, it’s a given to flash a smile, introduce yourself (with school and what year of school that you are in), and firmly shake the person’s hand. A firm handshake is a sign of confidence, assuredness, and mutual respect for both parties, thus why it is vital for you to have one! It is important to state where you are in your podiatric education so that the physician or residents will know which questions are appropriate to ask if they decide to do so. For example, if you are a first-year student, the physician will know not to ask you about more advanced surgical procedures since you have not learned them yet, but they will know that anatomy questions will be appropriate (again, always study your anatomy!).
In addition, be friendly and courteous to all staff in the office. It is vital to leave a positive impression on everyone you meet, not just the clinician. Always introduce yourself and show respect as this is their workspace as well!
VII. Inquire About Specific Shadowing Etiquette
Always ask the clinician you are shadowing how they would like you as a student to interact with patients when you are shadowing them. Do they prefer that you not talk or interact with patients at all while shadowing? Or do they expect you to introduce yourself and shake their hands each time you enter a room? Always clarify this beforehand to ensure proper student-to-patient interactions.
VIII. Bring a Pocket Notebook and Take Notes.
This shows you are prepared, taking initiative, and ready to learn. The more prepared you are, the more the doctor will be likely to trust you in a clinical setting.
You can also take notes on things that you do not know and things that you need to research in the future.
Do not take notes on aspects of the program that you do not like. You may accidentally leave your notebook somewhere and someone could read all the negative things that you wrote about that program.
IX. Always Have Questions Ready To Ask But Know WHEN to Ask.
It is important to ask questions throughout the day to appear interested and intrigued. However, it is just as vital to know when is the appropriate time to chime in.
When asking about something regarding a patient, asking directly in front of them isn’t the best way to ask your questions, especially when it is a sensitive case. You want to be as respectful as possible when asking questions. When you exit the room into a quiet hallway or a private call room, that’s when it is more appropriate to ask all your questions regarding the specific patient.
Fun fact: I was visiting a program and I noticed that the patient had a transmetatarsal amputation (TMA). I began to ask the resident about his amputation and what the indications were of this procedure. I noticed that she did not answer my question so I thought that she simply did not hear me. When we walked out of the patient’s room, she told me that amputations are a sensitive subject for patients and that it’s inappropriate to ask my questions about his amputation in front of the patient.
Do not repeat my mistakes!
If you are unsure when the right time to ask questions is, ask the doctor or residents when they prefer questions to be asked.
X. Don’t Feel Intimidated When Sitting-In On Academics or Journal Club Meetings.
This is a time for everyone to learn and ask questions about recent topics in the field. Being in the field of medicine means you’re always going to be a student and at times, you will be wrong. Do not be afraid to be wrong and use it as a learning opportunity. There is something new to learn and research every day!
XI. Ask For Contact Information To Stay In Touch.
Even though you might be shadowing a specific doctor, you are going to meet more individuals throughout the day. Therefore it is vital to take down everyone’s contact information. That way, you build your network and stay in touch for the next time you go to visit. You can also address all the people that you meet in your thank you note.
XII. Finally, Send A Thankyou Note.
Handwritten thank-you notes are preferred because they are more personalized. It shows that you took the time out of your day to write something thoughtful just like that doctor you shadowed took the time to have you come in and shadow them. If handwriting and mailing are not possible, emailing is a good second option. Either way, always send a thank-you note!
Pro tip: Take notes on what cases and procedures you saw that day and then include that in the thank you card. By doing so, it makes you seem like you really paid attention and that you learned during your visit.
Fun Fact: I emailed a letter to the program coordinator of my visit from the week prior and I thoroughly outlined what I saw that day. Not only was the coordinator appreciative of my thank you letter but she was also happy with the job that her colleagues did with showing me around that day since she was unable to be there during my visit.
We hope these tips are helpful in preparing for your shadowing experience. Now go grab that pocket notebook, a pilot g2 black pen (the author’s favorite study pen), brainstorm about those questions and have an amazing shadowing visit!
by Isana Fils-Aime and Bianca Karmaker.
School: Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine
Shadowing A Podiatrists: 101
Student, Lifestyle, Clinical experience
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