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Teach Learn Med. 2018 Jan 29:1-8. doi: 10.1080/10401334.2017.1415148. [Epub ahead of print]

There's a Lot More to Being a Physician: Insights From an Intensive Clinical Shadowing Experience in Internal Medicine.

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a Department of Medicine , Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell , Hempstead , New York , USA.
b Department of Orthopaedic Surgery , Columbia University Medical Center , New York , New York , USA.
c Mayo Clinic School of Medicine , Rochester , Minnesota , USA.
d Department of Health Policy & Management , Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health , Baltimore , Maryland , USA.
e Department of Medicine , Johns Hopkins School of Medicine , Baltimore , Maryland , USA.
f Department of Pediatrics , Johns Hopkins School of Medicine , Baltimore , Maryland , USA.


Phenomenon: Although most premedical students shadow physicians prior to starting medical school, there is no set of guidelines or expectations to facilitate effective experiences for students and physicians, nor is there data on the value of shadowing medical trainees as a way to learn about the training environment. We sought to understand premedical student perspectives on an intensive resident shadowing experience.


This was a qualitative study using anonymous data from focus groups conducted with premedical student participants in a month-long time motion analysis of internal medicine interns at two large academic medical centers. The authors convened, professionally transcribed verbatim, and analyzed data using step-by-step thematic analysis from 3 focus groups in 2012. Focus group questions included goals of participants, shadowing experiences, patient safety experiences, and thoughts on physician training.


Twenty of the 22 students who were involved in the time motion study participated in the focus groups (91%). Three major themes were generated from the transcripts: qualities of a good physician, the inefficiencies of the healthcare system and the hospital, and the realities of graduate medical education. Insights: The intensive shadowing experience exposed premedical students to the hospital environment and many of the challenges they will face as future residents. Observing patient care firsthand, students considered the qualities of good intern physicians and appreciated the teamwork and collaboration essential to patient care in an academic medical center. Students witnessed some of the fundamental challenges of graduate medical training, including time pressures, documentation requirements, and the medical hierarchy. They also observed the difficulties of providing quality care in the current healthcare system, including hospital inefficiencies, interprofessional tensions, and financial barriers to care. Intensive shadowing of residents can begin the process of socialization to the culture of medicine by giving premedical students a realistic perspective of both positive and negative aspects of medical training and inpatient care.


clinical education; patient-centered care; qualitative research; undergraduate medical education

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