Shadowing/Observership Overview  

Shadowing is great for students who are interested in a particular career, but would like to explore it further before fully committing or don’t have time for more involved activities. It is an opportunity for students to observe the activities of a professional in their actual work environment.  

Shadowing essentially provides:  

  • A better idea of what a particular job might be like  
  • An opportunity to ask questions from people in that profession  
  • About their work, lifestyle, path to their career, etc.  

Shadowing is typically not the best route for students who are seeking to obtain a letter of recommendation (LOR). Think about it: If someone observes you for several hours over several days, do you think you’d know enough about them to really write a good LOR or would your comments be pretty generic? While requesting an LOR of someone you shadow over a longer period of time could result in a good letter, the safer bet is to actually work with that person on something (not just observe) so they can see who you are and how you work. Indeed, many preceptors will decline an LOR request if they don’t feel like they really know who the student is – and that’s probably for the best, as an LOR from someone who barely knows you is not ideal. 

In other words, the best LOR’s are from people who can comment on how well you were able to learn and accomplish a task, if you are a good team player, if you are a diligent worker, etc. The letter writer’s ability to assess anything beyond your curiosity and surface-level personality are limited in a shadowing setting. Hence, students seeking an LOR should strongly consider volunteering whenever possible. 

Exceptions: Osteopathic Medicine Applicants and Foreign Medical Graduates 

The exceptions to the above rule are students applying for Osteopathic Medical Schools and non-UF learners including foreign medical graduates. Many of our DO faculty members are willing to write a letter of recommendation to a student applying to an Osteopathic Medical School after a shadowing experience – please see this website (empty right now) for a list of DO faculty in our department willing to take students for this purpose.  

Additionally, UF currently does not allow foreign medical graduates to be volunteers, so all clinical exposure for these learners has to come via shadowing (this does not apply to research positions).  

Please note, there is no correlation between rotations at UF and subsequent selection to interview for our residency/fellowship training programs. We conduct a holistic review of all applicants; in fairness to those who may not have the opportunity to rotate, prior rotations at UF are not factored in this review. You are encouraged to instead approach the rotation as an opportunity to learn and grow, and to strengthen your overall application to the field of neurology or a neurological subspecialty.