By: Savvy Pre-Med Staff
Unless you did your clinical shadowing before the lockdown in March 2020, or unless you’re one of the lucky pre-meds to find in-person shadowing during the pandemic, then you’ll be forced to write about virtual shadowing in your 2021-2022 application.
It seems like a difficult task. Due to the passive nature of shadowing, it’s already tricky to write about it compellingly, and the virtual format only makes this more challenging.
But it can definitely be done, especially if you’ve gone out of your way to find optimal virtual shadowing and taken steps to get the most out of the experiences.
We’re here to answer all your questions about writing about your virtual shadowing experiences, including some do’s and don’ts and an example for you to emulate.
If you follow this advice, you’ll be able to show medical schools the value of your virtual shadowing experience in a memorable, convincing narrative!
There are several considerations we need to discuss before diving into the actual writing process, so let’s get started:
Before pursuing a virtual shadowing experience, ask yourself these questions:
Virtual shadowing can potentially offer all these criteria, but it will be important for you to seek the right platforms that will maximize your virtual experience).
Weak Virtual Shadowing:
Some virtual shadowing opportunities consist of doctors talking over PowerPoint presentations. They’re passive and not very immersive, meaning that you don’t truly see the performance of duties or get the full picture of a doctor’s job. We understand if medical schools view these with a level of scrutiny.
Solid Virtual Shadowing:
Other virtual shadowing experiences involve pre-meds learning clinical skills from recorded patient interactions. These are more active and can actually build diagnostic skills through insights into real cases and a firsthand view of the job’s demands and duties.
Strong Virtual Shadowing:
The most sophisticated virtual shadowing experiences involve the doctors walking pre-meds through the cases themselves. This is the best of both worlds, in the sense that you get to build skills while also directly discussing the cases with the physicians themselves.
As an applicant, part of the onus will be on YOU to make sure that the medical schools fully understand the quality of your virtual shadowing and what you learned from the process. That means you’ll need to write about these virtual shadowing experiences in an effective, persuasive way.
Sure. Here’s a good example of what a virtual shadowing activity description (696 characters):
Here’s how you could turn this same experience into a meaningful paragraph in your Personal Statement:
With my interest in medicine piqued from my biology classes, I sought out shadowing experiences to test my commitment to a physician’s duties, responsibilities, and daily lifestyle. One meaningful experience was observing Dr. NAME’s telehealth consultation with a recently diagnosed diabetic patient. After introducing myself to the patient, I was allowed to ask a few questions about the patient’s family history, diet, and lifestyle. Dr. NAME commended my inquiries but also filled in the gaps with some additional questions. When Dr. NAME drew a diagram of the bloodstream and pancreas to show the patient what was happening in their body, I copied it down myself and took notes so that I could debrief with the doctor afterwards. The patient worked busy hours and lived in a food desert, so their main concern was eating healthy and controlling their diet. This showed me the importance of personalizing one’s care and avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. Dr. NAME took the time to outline what a typical day’s meals could look like, along with tips and resources for healthy cooking on a budget. I found some local groceries in walking distance of the patient’s neighborhood where they could purchase healthier, more nutritious options. Since my uncle has diabetes, I also shared my family’s strategy of changing our diet together to support him and help him stay accountable. The patient was surprised and intrigued by this approach, thanking me for my advice. In the end, the patient left the visit with a clearer understanding of their condition and how they could control it through a combination of insulin and lifestyle modifications. As Dr. NAME and I discussed the case afterwards, I felt even more drawn to medicine as a way to share my knowledge as a trusting guide and educator who can steer people towards healthier futures.
Have any questions about writing about your virtual shadowing experiences for medical school? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll respond to you personally!