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7 Insider Tips for Shadowing a Nurse and Making an Excellent First Impression

Shadowing a Nurse

Shadowing a nurse is one of the best ways to gain insight into the career.

While observing their time with patients and elsewhere, you’ll learn what it’s like to work in different specialties and environments as well as day-to-day responsibilities as a nurse practitioner. Getting hands on experience is invaluable and can help you advance in your early career. You’ll also have the opportunity to ask questions you may not have considered during prior education or off-site training.

Your first impression means everything. So what are some ways you can prepare? Let’s explore seven tips for shadowing a nurse.

#1: Respect Their Time

Shadowing is a privilege. To demonstrate your understanding of the valuable opportunity, respect your mentor’s time as much as possible.

You can do this in a number of ways, including:

  • Showing up early
  • Staying until your shadow shift is over
  • Asking permission ahead of time for days you cannot be present
  • Following basic rules set forth by the nurse you’re shadowing
  • Preparing for logistics ahead of time (parking, procedure, etc.)

#2: Ask Questions (At the Right Time)

It’s important to ask questions when you have them. However, scope out the right time to do so.

Avoid interrupting a nurse-patient conversation to ask questions. Instead, wait until there’s downtime or after a busy shift. If you’re not sure when to speak up, ask the nurse you’re shadowing ahead of time when would be an appropriate time for you to discuss questions and comments about the experience.

Also, keep in mind that nursing is a busy profession. To respect their time, consider if the questions you have could be answered by doing your own research. Focus on asking informed questions only and avoid easily discoverable questions, which may give the impression of being ill-prepared or lacking initiative.

Examples of questions to ask during your shadow experience are:

  • What made you choose this career?
  • How many patients do you see in a day?
  • What do you like best about your job?
  • What are the biggest challenges you face as a nurse practitioner?
  • What are your shits/hours like?

Take note of observations during appointments to later ask about any technical questions you have regarding treatments, medication administration, assessments, and similar topics.

#3: Follow Regulations and Avoid Patient Contact

Most of your “job” as a nurse shadowing involves careful observation.

You may be asked to complete simple, supervised tasks like fetching supplies or running errands around the facility. However, wait for direction to do so. Under most circumstances, you’ll be expected to avoid providing patient care, answering medical questions, or coming into physical contact with patients during appointment times.

Ask ahead of time if they’d like to introduce you to patients or if they expect you to. If the patient requests you not be present, respectfully accept and exit the room.

#4: Keep Phone Use Minimal

The nurse you’re shadowing has graciously agreed to give you insight into their career. In return, now is the time to offer full attentiveness and engagement.

This means either turning your phone off or on silent, and staying off of it as much as possible. Wait to check messages and calls in between patient appointments. If you plan to take notes, bring a pen and paper. Following simple phone etiquette shows you’re fully immersed in the experience and dedicated to learning all you can.

Allowing your phone to ring loudly during a patient appointment—or constantly scrolling social media—is not only distracting, but may come off as disrespectful.  Some facilities may not allow cell phones in patient care areas; you should confirm with the nurse you are shadowing prior to your first day.

#5: Dress Professionally

Dressing professionally gives the impression that you not only take your role as a shadower seriously, but also respect the opportunity you’ve been given.

Make sure to ask the facility ahead of time if there will be a dress code for those shadowing. Your connections may suggest you wear scrubs, or keep it simple with business casual attire. The last thing you want to do is show up in clothes you’d wear to the gym, the mall, or to sleep in. So plan ahead for any time you need to shop for an outfit prior to shadowing, if necessary.

#6: Act Professionally

It’s important to not only dress the part, but act the part, too.

This means treating others in the shadowing environment with professionalism and respect. Keep communication positive. Extend common courtesy to all members of the team, from front-desk workers and support staff to other nurses and physicians. This will not go unnoticed!

#7: Follow Up

Your connection with the nurse you shadow doesn’t have to end once your shadowing experience is done.

Shadowing is a networking opportunity just as much as an educational one—and small efforts go a long way. You can follow up with the nurse you shadowed with a personal note or card thanking them for the opportunity. This shows you have excellent follow up and gratitude, two traits that pair well with the nursing profession.

If the shadowing experience went well and when the timing feels right, you can feel free to ask for the possibility of a letter of recommendation should you need it.

Learn More About PACT

Nurses play an important role in ensuring PACT multi-specialty providers provide quality healthcare services to patients. If you are a nurse and want to share in the PACT vision of delivering patient-centered and innovative healthcare, apply to one of our open nurse jobs today.