How to Get Shadowing Hours

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It's become a huge requirement for most programs to have a good amount of shadowing hours.  The number I see thrown around the most is 100, but some programs do not have a specific number while others want even more than that.  I think shadowing is important because it lets you get a good idea of a what a PA does in a typical day, because while we talk about all of the fun stuff a lot, there's more involved (paperwork, late patients, no shows).  It can be very difficult and frustrating trying to find people that will let you come follow them around for a little while.  Most of the schools want you to directly shadow PAs (not physicians) and want a few different areas as well, so keep this in mind when looking for places to shadow.

As a provider now, I do understand that with a busy schedule it can be difficult to think about having someone that could potentially slow you down.  After having someone with me that my SP knew for a whole week, it was actually a lot of fun having someone to teach and asking questions.  It made me think a little and also made me feel more confident about what I know.  So that's my little aside to encourage current PAs to let students shadow, and to give students a little insight to why everyone doesn't say yes right away.

1. Use your connections.

Think about people you know and who might be able to help you get in touch with people.  This could be your parent's friends that work at doctor's offices or hospitals or doctors you have gone to for a long time.  Don't be scared to reach out to people you haven't been in contact with in a while because this is important for your future and the worst thing that happens is they say no!  Personally, while in undergrad I remembered that one of the teachers at my high school had a daughter who went to PA school, so I awkwardly sent her a Facebook message, but she was willing to talk to me and gave me some very valuable information!

2.  Use your resources - internet and the phone book

This is another example of the worst thing that can happen is someone saying no.  Get the phone book out or search your area and call places and ask if they have a PA and if they have students shadow.  I did this while I was in Athens at UGA, and out of everywhere I called one place said yes and 2 asked for my resume (which I thought was weird).  I ended up shadowing in dermatology under an awesome PA once a week and it was totally worth all the cold calls and awkward conversations.

Also check hospital websites and see if they have a shadowing program.  Another option is calling PA programs in the area you are interested and seeing if they have anyone or e-mailing faculty members to see if they know of any opportunities.

3. Join organizations.

Many of the PA organizations have either a forum or part of their website that provides names of people that are willing to have students shadow.  Look into joining a few of these to see if you can make some connections.  I definitely recommend joining AAPA and your state organization at least.  Also consider any specific fields you are interested in.  Our local GAPA chapter will occasionally send out e-mails from students looking to shadow.

It can be tough and discouraging to be told no over and over, but if you are able to get even a few hours it will be worth it!  What are some of your tips for getting shadowing hours?