Gaining clinical experience is essential to demonstrate a desire for a career in healthcare. Exposure to the day-to-day duties of a health professional will provide you with fundamental knowledge of what it is like to be a doctor, dentist, pharmacist, or other like a health professional. Successful health professional school applicants are able to articulate a consistent record of exploring their interest in healthcare through experience.
All pre-health students are encouraged to shadow a practicing professional of your intended profession. Additionally, students preparing for pharmacy, physician’s assistant, physical therapy, and occupational therapy programs must obtain additional specific experience requirements as part of your health professional school application.
Gaining experience is your goal. Shadowing, volunteering, and conducting research will give you the experience needed to solidify your desire to become a health professional. For shadowing, seek clinical experiences that will allow you to observe the physician: patient interaction.
How to Apply
It is best to apply in person, especially if you are seeking to shadow a physician you do not know. Prepare a cover letter and resume to present to the physician(s) you wish to shadow. Your resume should include your contact information, volunteer experience, and GPA. Your availability and a brief description of why you want to shadow should be included in your cover letter.
Do not expect to see the physician that day; you will often need to leave your information with administrative personnel. If you have not heard back from the physician within a timely manner, follow up with the person you spoke to, in person, when you visited. If you are given the opportunity to shadow, remember that you are representing yourself and The University of Alabama; be professional and engage in learning while you are there. Sending a thank you note at the conclusion of a clinical experience is a great way to show your appreciation.
Please keep in mind that some physicians are unwilling or unable, due to the nature or the legal limitations of their practice, to allow students to shadow. You may need to seek permission from multiple physicians before you are able to secure a clinical experience. Do not become discouraged; current physicians shadowed other physicians prior to entering medical school, therefore understand your need for this experience.
To help you get started, a link to applicable experience opportunities for students near The University of Alabama are listed below:
- Local-Clinical-Experience-Opportunities (PDF) for Pre-PA, Pre-OT, Pre-PT and Pre-Pharm
- Experiential Learning Services
- UA Office of Undergraduate Research
- A&S Undergraduate Research
- The University of Alabama Career Center
- The University of Alabama Center for Service & Leadership
- Faculty Research Database
The Health Professions Advising Office Newsletter will feature available opportunities that local healthcare practices have sent to our office.