Career Planning Advice

Shadowing / Observing

Please note UGME's official policies and procedures for Observerships and Shadowing.

Shadowing and observerships are reserved for first- and second-year MDCM students, and can complement your educational experience and contribute to your career planning.

  • Shadowing (a brief observation activity) may give you an idea of the practical work life of physicians in different specialties. By observing the different activities and teams, you start to get an idea of what you like and what you like less and can start sketching the preliminary outlines of your ideal career.
  • An observership is basically a longer, more intensive shadowing experience, whereby you would follow the same physician for a more extended period of time. These experiences can be organized in more or less the name ways as shadowing, except that you will need to make your expectations very clear. All that is required is to find a willing physician to take you on for the time requested.

Not all departments or individual physicians are willing to offer shadowing experiences, nor are they obliged to.

IMPORTANT: Shadowing/observerships is not hands-on clinical exposure. As it is not a UGME sanctioned activity and does not form part of your MDCM program, you are not covered by McGill liability insurance, nor are you licensed for the experience by the CMQ. Therefore, while you may observe, you are not permitted to perform clinical duties, including but not limited to history taking skills, physical examination skills or other procedural skills during shadowing/observerships.

FOR PERMISSION: As outlined in the Electives & Observerships Policy, students must follow the clinical site’s procedures for approval of observership, coordinated by the Direction of Education locally. Failure to follow the Direction of Education procedures may result in refusal of the observership and may be flagged as a potential professionalism lapse to the UGME Professionalism Advisor.

There are many ways to organize a shadowing/observership experience:

This is certainly an incomplete list, but a good way to start may be:

  • Work outward from your close circle of contacts: for example, your Osler Fellow, your FMD course directors or lecturers, your small group leaders.
  • Next, look into student-organized groups, such as (MedSpecs’ Shadowing Program or Medical Students’ Society Interest Groups, among others) which may be organizing shadowing experiences.
  • Next, feel free to approach a hospital department or physician directly through contacts found on a website (such as this one, for example) – explain that you are a medical student who is looking to understand a little bit more about Specialty X, and find out when/where you would be most welcome.
  • Finally, Network - using powerful tools such as LinkedIn or Twitter may help you to connect with physicians and specialty departments through their online presence. As a McGill medical student, you absolutely have a good reason to connect online. See McGill CaPS excellent guide to networking.


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