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March 9, 2011

Shining a Light on Shadowing

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Departments of Epidemiology and Population Health and Medicine, Montefiore-Einstein Center for Bioethics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York.

JAMA. 2011;305(10):1029-1030. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.267

Shadowing physicians has become an accepted way for college students to learn what it is like to be a physician. Students follow practicing physicians in their daily activities that almost always include patient care; indeed patient interactions seem to be the high point of the experience. But there are ethical concerns about physician shadowing by college students.

Shadowing is not a new idea in medical education. Historically, learning through observation has been a central component of training physicians and remains an important mechanism for medical students to learn history taking and physical examination skills, as well as to become familiar with various aspects of a physician's life. Currently, first- and second-year medical students are routinely assigned to shadow physicians.1 Medical students are also introduced to various specialties through shadowing experiences.2