Hi! My name is Tiffany Ruan and I’m a current junior at Davidson. I’m majoring in chemistry, concentrating in biochemistry, and I’m also on the premed track. I had my first experience with shadowing last year with a physician assistant at the Access Community Health Network in Chicago.
My experience last year was amazing; I had the opportunity to talk with the PA about his Davidson experience and how he had decided to become a PA. I also had the opportunity to see the interactions between the PA and his patients and I also interacted with the patients myself. Before the shadowing began, I made a list of questions that I wanted to ask the PA. I also did some research on what the clinic’s goal was in order to help their patients. If it is a career you’re interested in pursuing, I think it’s important to ask what the alumni did after Davidson that led them onto their career path.
From my shadowing experience, I learned that although the job can be repetitive (pull out the patient’s files, see the patient, and plug the data into a computer), every patient is different and you will be able to witness different interactions between the patient and the PA (or the interactions between whoever you are shadowing and a client, customer, etc.). The PA had friendly conversations with some of his patients while other conversations were solely surrounding the patient’s checkup.
This year, I will be shadowing at GBCHealth, a non-profit global health organization, in New York. Again, I will be making a list of questions to ask the person I’m shadowing so I can learn more about the global health sector since that is a career I’m interested in pursuing. I’m also going to make sure I dress more appropriately this time around. I wore casual jeans and a sweater with boots to shadow the PA last year and I felt underdressed since my PA was in dress pants, a dress shirt, dress shoes, and a tie. It really depends on where you are shadowing. If you’re shadowing at a business firm, an investment bank, a clinic, or something in a very professional setting, I’d recommend wearing dress pants, a dress shirt, dress shoes, and a tie if you’re a guy, or dress pants, a nice top, and flats if you’re a girl.
Before going in to shadow, I’d make a list of questions that you want to ask the person you’re shadowing. I would also do some research on the organization at which you are shadowing. Coming in prepared and knowing about the organization is key to making a good first impression because that may be where you will be working in the future. Also, DO NOT text, Snapchat, go on Facebook, tweet, or anything of that sort while you are shadowing. I left my phone in my backpack at the break room the entire time. You want to show that you’re interested in learning about the organization you are shadowing. Additionally, if you have your mind set on a career, do not let a bad shadowing experience change your mind. Do additional shadowing at other places because every organization is different. If the shadowing experience is just an opportunity to see if the career is worth pursuing, do not go in acting like you have no interest in the organization. Make sure to go in with an open mind!
Good luck to everyone shadowing this winter break! It’ll definitely give you a perspective of what type of career you want to pursue.