What Is Physician Assistant Shadowing? How to Find & Benefits

Many PA students struggle with one of the first steps necessary to make this dream come true.

This challenge can include finding a mentor to oversee the Physician Assistance program. That is why it is essential to understand what physician assistant shadowing is all about.

However, knowing how to find the best PA mentor or understanding how to shade a PA doesn’t have to be complicated.

Many families urge their children to go to college without guidance on choosing a career. This is why so many students end up in programs that do not lead to a well-paid job or join the workforce after graduation to find that they dislike their chosen career.

Unfortunately, these people have only spent years and tens of thousands of dollars to get into this area, only to find that it is not the right choice for them.

Physician Assistant Shadowing

Many pre-PA students talk about how difficult it is to find a physician assistant ready to look after them. It undoubtedly requires some footwork but doesn’t have to be complicated.

Knowing the secrets will make it much easier to find a PA mentor.

The vast majority of Physician Assistants would like to act as your mentor. Most PAs love what they do and want to share it with someone considering becoming a PA.

You dream of nothing other than being able to take someone like you under your wing.

The PAs work continuously during the clock. The average PA sees 70-80 patients a week; their days are never boring. You move from patient to patient and do the following:

  • diagnoses
  • treatment
  • Acute care
  • Diagnostic test
  • physics
  • Procedure
  • Care coordination
  • Education and counselling for patients and families
  • EMR management (Electronic Medical Records)
  • Fill out forms

As you can see, it is the right business for someone who loves people and health. However, there is not much room for anything else at work.

When it is time to shade a Physician Assistant, there is a right way to do it. First, know the four cardinal rules.

Cardinal rules for shadowing a PA.

  1. Be professional; The first impression is sustainable.
  2. Stay out of the way; PAs are busy people.
  3. Learn everything you can; Shadow is a great opportunity.
  4. Be grateful; They take time for you.

Why PA Shadowing is Important

PA shadowing is an important step that all pre-PA students should take to ensure that becoming a Physician Assistant is the right career path for them.

For the right pre-PA student, shadowing the PA before entering school will confirm that this is the rewarding career they seek. For someone not ready to be a PA, shadowing will reveal that truth to them.

Even if PA shadowing is not required for your program, you should shade a Physician Assistant for at least 2-3 days. If you’re already in PA school and haven’t done any PA shadowing, you may need to complete this process to meet the graduation requirements. In this case, this guide is also for you.

Want to pursue your PA studies in a Private School? Click the link to explore the Top 10 Physician Assistant Private Schools In the World

How long should you shadow a PA?

The duration of a physician assistant (PA) shadowing experience can vary depending on the requirements of the program or institution offering the opportunity and the goals of the individual seeking the experience.

In general, it is recommended that aspiring PAs shadow for a minimum of 50 to 100 hours, though some programs may require more. This provides enough time for the individual to comprehensively understand the PA’s role and responsibilities, observe various medical procedures and patient interactions, and ask questions to learn more about the profession.

However, if possible, it is ideal to shadow for a longer duration to gain a more in-depth understanding of the PA profession and to demonstrate a sustained commitment to the field. Ultimately, the length of the shadowing experience should be based on the individual’s goals and the requirements of the program or institution to they are applying to.

What Do I Need to Know When Shadowing a PA?

To shade a physician’s assistant, one has to understand his perspective.

You have to see that you are:

  • Passionate
  • Disciplined
  • Can calmly observe, help if necessary and ask questions later
  • eager to learn

This guide to finding a mentor for Physician Assistants is about demonstrating these traits.

How Do I Get into the PA Shadowing Mentorship?

Use these tips to find the right PA mentor for you quickly.

#1. Invest in yourself

If you’re looking for shadows, first, you must ensure you look like this. Even if you have a limited budget, you have to look presentable. Achieving this does not mean buying an expensive suit.

New clothes not only look good, but they can also boost your self-confidence. This trust can help you take the opportunity to shadow a Physician Assistant.

Some people have hair that falls into place. If you don’t, you should have it professionally cut or styled. And don’t forget to look at your shoes.

#2. Do Your Homework

Those who want to enter the PA profession must know how to research and navigate online. As a PA student, you will often do this.

Get online to learn more about medical facilities in your area. You need to know if they are:

  • Employ PAs
  • Have a formal PA shadowing program
  • Are you open to PA shadows?
  • You can find this on “About us” or “Our employees.”

#3. Find out if they have a shadow program

If an institution already has a PA program, you’re in luck. You may need to apply online. Don’t assume that a facility without a formal mentoring program would not be happy to help you explore this rewarding career.

When medical institutions offer a formal program, you may have to wait for an opening to appear on a list. If you announced you are a mentor, this list could be longer. Anyone who goes the easy way to find a PA mentor will be on this list.

#4. Search for “Similarities”

You will find employee bios as you research. Search them. You may have something in common with a Physician Assistant or receptionist. This common ground could be your way into the door.

Look for things like:

  • Military service if you were also in the military
  • Same primary school or even high school
  • Similar interests or passions

#5. Go for a good fit

So early in your career, you may not know enough about healthcare experience to select a particular subject. But do you have an idea?

In this case, it makes sense to shade a doctor’s assistant who plays the same role or works in a similar environment. This lets you see what your daily routine could look like as a PA.

If the options in your area are limited, you may not have this luxury. But if you have options, definitely explore them.

#5. Show Up

Don’t call. Do not text. No email. Do not send a message on social media. Just show yourself. Because the medical facilities are so full, appearing in person is the only way not to get brushed off.

#6. Come Bringing Gifts

People could mistake gifts if they were pharmaceutical representatives or insurance agents. It could even be unethical. But you are a pre-PA student, so you get a passport. Use it.

Bring a gift, whether you’re trying to get past the front desk or talking to the PA. Something from a trendy local café works excellently. You don’t have to spend a lot.

Here the thought counts. You still made a good impression.

#7. Have an Answer For Rejection

We have already noticed that healthcare professionals are busy people. You will be rejected. But it helps to prepare an answer.

This is because in many contexts, “No means No”, but in this case, what appears to be a solid “No” can be a minor objection you can overcome.

The person you talk to first is usually not the decision-maker. You need strategies to get past the PA.

#8. Show them you rock

Just because you haven’t started PA school yet doesn’t mean you can’t start studying. There are many ways for a Physician Assistant to demonstrate to the doctor that he takes patient care and compliance seriously.

Take an online or personal course on:

  • CPR
  • Medical coding

It doesn’t have to be a certification or credit course. Anything that shows that you are eager to learn can help. In addition, you will likely need to take a similar course for your study requirements.

#9. Position yourself on your radar

In an environment where it is difficult to find a Physician Assistant program, you may need to position yourself. Be in the right place at the right time.

Many people who start at the front desk later become PAs. If you are interested in becoming a PA, look for a job somewhere where they have PAs.

This strategy may offer you an excellent job while at school and provide you with sufficient resources at the beginning of class.

#10. Volunteer to Work

You should volunteer for several hours before asking about mentoring. Avoid having an agenda. In addition, to help, you may find your PA mentor.

Getting into a PA school is very competitive. Volunteering can give you a competitive advantage in the application process.

In addition, many recruiters will ask about your volunteering. You want to hire compassionate, socially conscious people.

It’s hard to reject someone who volunteers for your facility. Use this option to gain medical experience.

Look for volunteer opportunities in facilities where PAs work, such as:

  • An emergency room
  • Free clinic
  • Medical Practice in an underserved community
  • Medical mission program

#11. Know your PA shadowing goals

Anyone who successfully lands a shadow experience knows what they want to achieve.

Be ready to answer questions such as:

  • Why do you want to become a PA?
  • What do you hope for when you shadow a physician assistant?

These help a PA get an insight into whether they want to look after you and whether you understand how to shade a PA.

#12. Get a Letter of Recommendation

You don’t have a resume yet as a Physician Assistant, but a letter of recommendation can help you find a PA shadowing opportunity.

Consider a letter from:

  • A former employer
  • A bachelor professor
  • Where You volunteered

Make copies and have them ready to hand in with your application, if necessary.

#13. Start small

Large health systems may appear to have all the resources in the world. But often, you can jump through those with bureaucracy and tires.

Due to HIPAA regulations, PA shadowing may not be permitted, or it may take months to create a program. Small or rural offices and facilities are often more open to shade.

So look beyond the city. You may need to grow small to complete shading faster and start a rewarding career.

How much does Physician Assistant Shadowing cost?

The cost of physician assistant shadowing can vary depending on several factors, including the location, the duration of the shadowing experience, and the specific program or institution offering the opportunity. Some programs may offer unpaid shadowing experiences, while others may require payment.

You should research various programs and institutions to learn more about their shadowing opportunities and associated costs. You can also consider reaching out to individual healthcare providers or clinics to inquire about the possibility of shadowing them directly, which may or may not involve a cost.

How To Shadow A PA

It is important that you know how to shade a PA and how to make the most of your time.


  1. Before shadowing a physician Assistant, check with the PA that you will be watching when and how long you will come to them. Ask where it would be most convenient for them to meet you.
  2. Find out if you need a particular hospital or clinic permit. Some settings require that you sign a HIPPA confidentiality agreement because you are exposed to individuals’ Protected Health Information (PHI).
  3. Think for a while about the big questions you have about PA. Write them down, bring them with you and make sure you answer them.
  4. Wear appropriate professional clothing (no jeans of any kind!). Men: khakis with a shirt with a collar and buttons without a tie. Women: pants or skirt and blouse without heels. Note: If you shade a doctor’s assistant in an emergency room, things are looser (but not jeans).
  5. If you have a stethoscope, leave it at home. If there is an opportunity to listen to a patient’s lungs or heart, someone will let you use a patient’s lungs or heart. They are not there to treat patients but to learn more about the work of the PAs.
  6. Show up early; punctual is late. If you arrive early, you have time to orient yourself, use the toilet, meet the staff and settle down. It also shows your motivation.


  1. Introduce yourself and be kind to everyone you meet.
  2. Write down questions about your observations with a pen and notebook. Do not write while you are with patients, and do not write private information about patients.
  3. Stay out of the way and do not touch patients unless specifically asked.
  4. Avoid talking too much. All PAs are different, and you have to play them by ear. But if you have any doubts, remember the old saying: there is a good reason why we all have two eyes and two ears but only one mouth.
  5. If you are shadowing a Physician Assistant, questions are fine but avoid bothering your PA. Save them for between patients or until asked if you have any.
  6. Be yourself, and don’t try to impress someone. Naturally, you want to appear competent but don’t have to. If you feel like you have to show that you are not an idiot, ask a question that shows that you are thinking about what you see.
  7. If you can be helpful, do so. Getting little things like a dress or finding a Physician Assistant when needed is always appreciated.
  8. If you have a chance, two good questions are: “What do you love about your work?” and “What part of your work could you do without?”
  9. When things get hectic, sit back and be understanding.
  10. There will be times when you are not sure what to do. You could feel like a “fifth wheel”. That’s okay. These are good times to write down questions and make observations.
  11. Before you go, thank the clinician and shake hands. They did you a great favour.


  1. Send a short thank you letter (no email) a day or two after shadowing a Physician Assistant. Consider including a $ 10 gift card for Starbucks or iTunes (iTunes is ideal for using an iPhone at work).
  2. Keep the PA you followed up to date on your progress. If you come to school, you should let them know. If you do this, you might even have a prescription or job.
  3. Keep an eye on the time and place for your shadow experiences. Some schools accept these as contact hours for patients. If not, they still count as “Health Care Shadowing” in your CASPA application.
  4. Do not be discouraged if you are shadowing a Physician Assistant who is not particularly helpful or interesting. Find others to shade – it gives you a broader field experience.

Shadowing a Physician Assistant – FAQs

How do I get a Physician Assitant?

Contact your local, regional, or state PA chapter for insight and guidance (here is an interactive map I developed to help you).

If you have the above, then you must…

Ask to attend one of their meetings and seek out a PA to shadow. Go to a local clinic, urgent care, or hospital. Search online for medical facilities in your region.

How do I choose the best medical professionals to shadow?

Create a list of medical specialities that interest you. We know it’s crazy early to be deciding on the rest of your medical career with hardly any knowledge. …

Where to start my PA Shadowing job?

Try shadowing your family doctor.
Once you have a connection, ask.
Enjoy the clinical experience.
Send a thank you note.

How do I get a shadow job opportunity?

Start with the first person on your list and work until someone agrees to an informational interview or job shadow. It shouldn’t take too many tries if you do it right. The trick is to be brief, polite, and straightforward.


Shadowing a Physician Assistant means being open to the experience. Don’t worry if it turns out differently than expected. That’s the whole point of shadowing – to see what it’s really like to work as a PA.


Writer’s Recommendation

You May Also Like