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Monday, September 25, 2023


Virtual shadowing opportunities are some students’ only option

virtual shadowing

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

With the COVID-19 pandemic restricting undergraduate student access to hospitals and clinics, some pre-health students at UH have found alternatives in virtual job shadowing and have mixed opinions about their helpfulness.

Various organizations have put together videos of guest speakers such as medical professionals, discussing their career paths, explaining what they do on a day-to-day basis and reviewing examples of medical conditions they might see in the clinic or hospital.

Virtual Shadowing, for example, provides free weekly two-hour slideshow presentations and Q-and-A sessions by medical doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Students can watch the live or recorded sessions and take a quiz within the following week to receive a certificate.

Other popular programs include but are not limited to WebShadowers and MedSchoolCoach.

While some UH pre-health students have found these experiences to be helpful, others are skeptical of their worth.

Health communications and biochemistry sophomore Emily Groeper began college on the pre-med track but switched to pre-pharmacy once she saw how difficult it was to find research openings and other extracurricular opportunities.

Groeper expressed concerns that professional schools might not be sympathetic to pandemic-related drops in extracurricular experiences.

“The online clinics and opportunities that I have had I do not think were as informational or inclusive as if I would have been in-person,” Groeper said. “I do think that most schools won’t recognize yet that the pandemic has had an exponential factor on limiting the resumes of undergraduate students.”

Pre-optometry and biology senior Dustin Tran has been hesitant to pursue any virtual clinical experiences, although he said optometry schools do accept virtual informational interviews with practicing optometrists to learn more about their careers.

“I do not believe that virtual shadowing should be a real thing because you can’t really grasp the full understanding of your field of work/interest,” Tran said. “In my opinion, in-person shadowing is much more valuable as you can be there in person with the doctor as they go through examinations and potentially get to see interesting conditions or diseases.”

Tran said he was fortunate enough to have already been working as an optometrist technician before the pandemic, so he didn’t have trouble satisfying shadowing or work hours and will still be applying to optometry school on schedule.

Biochemical and biophysical sciences sophomore Mariama Coomber is on a pre-med track and has had difficulty finding doctors to shadow due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

Despite this, she still watches virtual shadowing sessions, found volunteer opportunities via online platforms and used the extra time to become an EMT.

“Though not as informative and lively as in person, [virtual shadowing] does teach me the diagnostics of the profession,” Coomber said. “Many doctors will allow shadowers to experience some hands-on experience. Virtual job shadowing is not bad [and] better than nothing.”

Coomber pointed out that even when she was training for her EMT license, she had to learn the information and practice physically. With virtual shadowing, the experience is mostly reduced to passive information intake.

“Virtual job shadowing to me is one half of the job shadowing experience. It’s not a complete experience but you have more knowledge than when you first came in,” Coomber said. “In-person job shadowing usually gives both aspects of the profession.”

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