Aims Medical shadowing helps applicants to medical school improve their CV and determine their suitability for a medical career. Previously in our tertiary paediatric service shadowing was arranged individually by Consultants. To improve equity of access, adherence to national guidance and quality of shadowing experiences we initiated a new, formal programme.
Methods Questionnaires are sent to students before and after each placement to determine to what extent our aims and students' learning objectives are achieved.
Results Over 8 months 16 students enquired about shadowing. 13 completed the application process. 7 others organised placements outside our programme and were also given questionnaires. 13/20 pre-placement and 10/20 post-placement questionnaires were returned.
Male:female ratio was 7:13. 12/13 students self-described as ‘definitely applying for medicine’. 11/12 had had some previous work experience or shadowing (1-3 placements per student). See figures 1 and 2 for additional information.
The length of placement was negotiated individually and ranged from 1-5 days (mean 3.8, median 4). 4 students had no formal timetable (all were placements arranged outside our programme). For the activities experienced see table 1.
Almost all the different activities were rated as ‘most interesting’ by at least one student. Most highly rated were Paediatric Oncology (5/10 students) and Paediatric Intensive Care (3/10 students).
Things which the students did not enjoy included not having a timetable (1 student) or ID badge (2 students). No students reported timetabled activities in this category.
None of the students changed their intention to pursue a medical career. No concerns were raised by staff, patients or families regarding the shadowing programme.
Conclusions Successful medical shadowing can occur in ‘sensitive’ specialties, such as paediatrics.
True equity of access requires outreach activities to broaden awareness of programmes amongst students and educational establishments.
Informally arranged placements are more likely to fall short of recommended standards. This may leave students and supervising staff vulnerable to complaints and invalidate indemnity cover. To ensure standards are met placements should be organised only through a clearly identified team.