Job Shadowing

Some How's and Why's of Job Shadowing

Maybe you've heard that job shadowing health professionals can be a very valuable experience for students. Maybe you'd like to help your students find and successfully engage in job shadowing in your community. Below are some suggestions for getting started and helping students get started, with getting first-hand exposure to the world of work and to a diversity of careers.

  1. Student must be 16 years of age or older
  2. Student must have copy of current immunization records (Montana DPHHS exemption forms do not fulfill this requirement)
  3. Student must have negative results from current TB test (from within the last calendar year)
  4. Student, under 18, must have parent/guardian signature on HIPAA forms and permission forms

Will students really be welcome?

Many health practitioners are very open to students observing them at work after all, most are enthusiastic about their chosen profession! And increasingly, many will have spent time shadowing as part of their own education. Health care facilities have strict but straightforward policies about students observing. Outbreaks of illness (like the H1N1 flu) may cause facilities to deny students access, but usually students who complete any required paperwork and provide documentation of required health conditions (usually immunizations and TB testing) will be welcomed.

How and where?

Check online first.  Many hospitals have necessary paperwork posted on their websites.  A phone call to the hospital or clinic's HR department, or volunteer coordinator, is usually the first step to getting the job shadowing ball rolling. Your regional AHEC office can also point you toward the appropriate contact. Remember that facilities other than hospitals may be valuable sites for job shadowing: try a veterinary clinic, Community Health Center, Physical Therapy clinic, dentist's office, or pharmacy.

What do students need to know?

First and foremost, job shadowing is a great opportunity and a privilege. The practitioner's priority is the care of the patient. It is up to the student to make the most of the experience. Make sure the student knows they will need to:

  • Be on time
  • Dress appropriately
  • Be a "shadow" when the practitioner is busy; ask questions when appropriate
  • Maintain confidentiality about what they see and hear
  • Leave the room if asked to do so by the patient or practitioner

Finally, many students are eager to see and experience the "high-drama" aspects of health care - the ER, or surgery. Students should know that often these areas are more difficult to get permission to observe.

For more information about job shadowing, read this white paper on Job Shadowing, prepared by the Junior Achievement League, or contact your regional AHEC office.

You can contact Martha Robertson, Program Coordinator of WMT-AHEC, at (406) 243-4746 or at