Lauren Miller

Lauren Miller


3 minute read

Article Overview:


If you’ve already explored our Sri Lanka and Kilimanjaro project pages, you may have seen the word ‘shadowing’ mentioned.

Still feel left in the dark? Let us tell you all about it…


What is shadowing a Doctor? 

Shadowing is a form of work experience involving observing a variety of roles within the healthcare system. Shadowing can be done both in the UK and overseas and is usually purely observational, due to the health and safety restrictions of not yet being a healthcare professional yourself.

Even though it may seem ‘boring’ to simply watch someone, it is highly useful to shadow a healthcare professional for a number of reasons:

  1. Exploring whether you think a career in Medicine is for you
  2. Gaining further valuable knowledge about clinical conditions and the NHS
  3. Seeing real patients being treated by medical professionals
  4. An opportunity to ask many questions about anything, and everything! 

Where does shadowing take place?

Shadowing can take place in a variety of settings including hospitals, GP practices and hospices. This can be difficult to arrange, especially in the UK, and prospective medical students (especially those aged under 18) may find they are restricted as one student on The Medic Portal explains here: How to Gain GP Shadowing Experience.  Most students might think that they have to shadow Doctors, but there are many roles within the multidisciplinary team that you can shadow and gain knowledge from.

What should I do to make the most of my shadowing placement?

When you are on a shadowing-style work placement, there are a few things that you can do to make the most of your time.

Keep a diary… 

Consider keeping a diary or portfolio to highlight the things you have learnt, or specific cases you may have came across (with no patient identifiable details). Sometimes, you can find it hard to remember what you went into the kitchen for,  let alone recall the rare disease you came across in work experience two months ago! 

Ask questions…

It is important to use this time to ask people questions about their day-to-day life or about current medical topics in the media. They should understand that you have not actually been to Medical School yet so don’t worry about asking them lots of questions. By asking more questions, you will be able to understand more and educate yourself further. Medical jargon can seem like another language, so do speak up if you don’t understand.

In addition to shadowing in the UK healthcare system, it is important to think about other types of work experience such as simulations, overseas shadowing and caring roles. Think about work experience as quality over quantity – it is better to have a lesser amount of good quality work experience rather than several weeks of experience that you have learnt little from. A good way to then use your work experience is to reflect on such things as skills/qualities that you have learnt during your time, ethical topics that you witnessed and exploring the realities of a career in Medicine. Having a number of various, useful work experiences shows your dedication towards a career in Medicine. 

Work Experience Top Tips from Dr. April Diviney:


  • If you are finding restrictions to gain work experience, think outside the box
  • There are many types of work experience besides shadowing
  • Doctors aren’t the only people to shadow in the clinical multi-disciplinary team
  • Keep a diary


You can find out more about shadowing Doctors in our overseas projects via the links below:

Overseas Hospital Work Experience at Project Sri LankaFind Out More

Overseas Hospital Work Experience at Project KilimanjaroFind Out More