Shadowing physicians – should it be a criterion for acceptance to medical school?

While the competition for admissions to medical schools in North America is on the rise, nonzero attrition rates from these schools are not uncommon. As such, many admissions committees are increasingly favoring students who have shadowed physicians prior to their application. They reason that students are less likely to drop out of medical school if “they know what they are getting themselves into”, and therefore one way to ensure that they are familiar with the demands of medicine is to have job shadowing experience. However, I do not completely believe that there is any significant relationship between medical school attrition rates and job shadowing experience.

How many medical students who go on to become doctors do not pursue a career in medicine? A very small percentage. On the other hand, the attrition rate that admissions committees seem often concerned about is likely related to students choosing not to pursue a career in medicine while they are still studying in medical school. This could likely be due to high workload, which causes medical students to experience overwhelming stress and exhaustion. Therefore, I do not think that the observed attrition rates in medical schools is related to students not being familiar with the responsibilities and demands that comes with being a doctor, but rather it is related to students not being familiar with the lifestyle of a medical student. As such, one way to keep medical school dropout rates low is to consider students who have ‘shadowed’ medical students. This way, students will be more familiar with the workload of medical schools, thus allowing them to devise a strategy to have a good work-life balance prior to starting medical education.

In conclusion, medical school admissions committees should consider students who show familiarity with the lifestyle of medical students, rather than simply favouring students who are familiar with the lifestyle of doctors working in clinical settings.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are my own.



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