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June 15, 2011

Shadowing Physicians—Reply

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York (elizabeth.kitsis@einstein.yu.edu).

JAMA. 2011;305(23):2414-2416. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.790

In Reply: The most important issue raised in the letters is whether the potential benefits of physician shadowing by college students outweigh its harms to the patient-physician relationship. Dr Teitz and Mr Wong and Ms Gold suggest that shadowing provides exposure to medicine's practical and realistic sides. I agree. However, multiple alternatives can accomplish this without requiring a student to become an interloper in the patient-physician encounter. While working in emergency departments or physicians' offices, students can see whether they are comfortable in the presence of ill patients. During these activities, students will be near physicians and see what their work entails. Another avenue to learn about the experience of being a physician is to read narratives.1 Students can learn about the more mundane aspects of medicine by spending time with medical administrators. Direct observation of the patient-physician encounter would be missing, but there are videos available on the Internet to simulate these experiences.2,3