Due to coronavirus (COVID-19), we will be suspending job shadowing opportunities until further notice. Please check back later, and we apologize for the inconvenience.

To begin your job shadowing process, please follow the instructions below:

  1. On this page, read the shadowing etiquette, watch the etiquette video and download the shadowing packet.
  2. Complete the HIPAA quiz and reflection.
  3. Complete the Confidentiality, Consent and Contact (CCC) form.
  4. Complete the Job Shadow Request form and list specific dates and times of availability.
  5. Between the dates of October 1 through March 31 (flu season), anyone 18 years of age or older is required to have his/her flu shot with proof of documentation.
  6. Submit the HIPAA quiz, reflection, CCC form, proof of flu shot, and job shadow request form by one of the following methods:
    • Fax to (816) 271-6786
    • Scan and email to nwmoahec@mymlc.com
    • Deliver in person to the AHEC office Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
      • Plaza 3, Lower Level, Suite 120, Office 191
        5325 Faraon Street
        St. Joseph, MO 64507

Before the date of your shadow:

  • Once your job shadow is scheduled, a confirmation email will be sent with details pertaining to your shadow. This email will include date, time and location of your shadow along with where to pick up your name tag.
  • Make sure to wear your name tag during your shadow. This is a requirement.

After your shadow:

  • Write a thank you note to the provider or caregiver.

Shadowing Guidelines

Shadowing Etiquette

During your experience, the caregiver’s focus (and your own) will be on meeting patient needs. Seats in the clinic and hospital rooms are reserved for patients, their family and their belongings. Unless invited to sit or directed elsewhere, stand behind/to the side of the provider (like a shadow).

Avoid asking the patient questions or asking the caregiver questions in front of the patient. Respect confidentiality and privacy; do not talk about the patient or their information at any time. Allow the caregiver to introduce to you the patient, but don't be concerned if they don't. Avoid taking notes during patient visits. Relax and have a good time.


A hospital, clinic or health department is a professional work setting. Therefore, your dress and appearance should be professional. Clothing should be neat and clean; do not try to make extreme fashion statements. Use the following guidelines to look your best during your shadowing opportunity.

  • Students should dress in a manner that presents a look of professionalism.
  • Students should dress modestly and neatly with shirt tucked into pants (NO JEANS).
  • Avoid extreme dress, hairstyles and jewelry. Women with long hair may want to pull back their hair, so that it will not disturb either them or a patient.
  • Do not wear clothing that portrays suggestive or derogatory pictures and messages, including advertising of alcohol, tobacco, music bands, etc.
  • Clothing needs to cover undergarments.
  • No sleeveless blouses, shirts or tops.
  • Clothing should not be skin tight or revealing.
  • Wearing nose, eyebrow, tongue, lip and body jewelry is discouraged. Earrings should be small and conservative – no big hoops or long dangles.
  • Body tattoos must be covered.
  • Wear flat comfortable shoes – no sandals or open-toed shoes. Keep in mind that you may be standing for long periods of time.
  • Men should wear dress slacks, shirt and tie. Women should wear nice pants, dress or skirts of a conservative length – no mini-skirts. NO JEANS.
  • Be sure that your hands, fingernails, etc. are clean.

Arrival to Shadowing Site

Plan to arrive at least 10 minutes early to each of your shadowing experiences. Professionals are busy people, and they do not want to spend their time waiting for you; they are already doing you a big favor by letting you shadow them. If, for some reason, you are late, be sure to telephone the preceptor and let him/her know what time you will be arriving. When you arrive, introduce yourself to the secretary or receptionist and wait patiently for the professional. Do not be surprised or disappointed if they run late. While your shadowing experience is important to them, please be mindful of unexpected situations that are a part of their daily routine.


Now is a good time to put into practice all of those polite phrases that you learned at home or in school. Words such as “excuse me,” “sir,” “ma’am,” “please,” and “thank you” should be second nature for you during your shadowing experience. In addition, use correct grammar (i.e. “we were” not “we was”). Be sure to use proper titles with all of the hospital or clinic staff. Also, when you speak to people, remember that you are speaking to them and not to the wall or floor or ceiling. Eye contact plays a vital role in effective communication.

Patient Confidentiality and Privacy

As explained above, during your shadowing experience you may be exposed to people’s private feelings, actions and body parts. Everything that you see and hear should be kept confidential both inside and outside the hospital. You may have access to confidential charts and records. Please refrain from snooping. If you are interested in learning more about a patient’s illness or case history, ask the doctor.


You should not chew gum while shadowing. However, if you are worried about the welfare of those around you, an occasional breath mint is fine and may be appreciated. Always remember that you are the guest. Treat everyone and everything accordingly; being overly polite is never going to harm you or anyone else. For example, obtain permission to use the telephone. Also, do not assume that you are free to wander on your own throughout the hospital or clinic or that you can sit at any desk and use whatever equipment is there. Always obtain permission. You should be polite around the patients as well. Medicine allows you to see certain emotional and physical aspects of people that may be hidden from public view. Never show disgust at touching or dealing with a particular patient. Do not gawk at anything. If you feel like you need to remove yourself from a situation (if you feel faint or ill), please do so politely and quickly.

Polite Assertiveness

In order to make this an effective learning experience, you will want to show visible interest and excitement in whatever you are asked to do while shadowing. You will want to demonstrate confidence in your abilities and enthusiasm and commitment to medicine. If the opportunity arises, volunteer to do a variety of jobs. Be politely assertive.

Express Gratitude

After your first shadowing experience (and even if you will continue to shadow with the same preceptor), you will want to send a thank you card to the preceptor, letting him or her know how much you appreciated the opportunity and what you learned from the experience. If there was someone specifically on the office or hospital staff who helped you, you should mention them by name in your thank you card or send a separate thank you note addressed to that individual.


No matter what career field you shadow, keep in mind that while it is okay to discuss what you learned about the job and the career, it is never okay to discuss clients or customers that interacted with that professional. Even discussing the specifics about the client or situation without mentioning names can reveal the patient’s identity, especially in a small town. Therefore it is best to talk in GENERAL terms about what you might have learned from the experience.

Career shadowing offers you an opportunity to spend time “on-the-job” with a practicing health-care professional. This unique experience may place you in the position of overhearing or observing confidential information, oral or written.

When shadowing a health professional, it is of the utmost importance that you do not talk about any specifics that may have encountered during your shadowing.

When entering a hospital, a patient has entrusted the hospital with a variety of information, some of which is very personal. Maintaining patients’ privacy is as important as the medical care provided. Therefore, all case discussions, consultations, examinations and treatments are confidential and are to be conducted discreetly. Any unauthorized disclosure of hospital information, records or patient information can result in suspension or immediate discharge of an employee and a student who is shadowing.

To prevent the unauthorized disclosure of any patient information, please review the following procedures concerning patient confidentiality:

  1. Any confidential information obtained from the hospital, clinic, or health department’s files, records or computers must remain just that - CONFIDENTIAL! Anyone involved in the care of a patient should refrain from discussing the patient outside the hospital, clinic or health department. Even casual conversations can be misunderstood and could even cause legal action against the hospital and the individuals involved. Remember, you NEVER KNOW WHO IS LISTENING!
  2. Gossiping about any patient is unprofessional and totally unacceptable. Never discuss the personal life of any patient with anyone. If professional matters concerning the patient must be discussed, please do so with a doctor or a nurse in a private area.

Shadowing a professional is a privilege not extended to all high school and college students. To best meet the needs of the hospitals, clinics and health departments where you shadow, we ask you to sign a statement, stating that you understand and will abide by these guidelines. Any disregard of these rules may result in the discontinuation of your shadowing experience.

HIPAA Laws – Shadowing in a health-care setting

Health-care facilities have a law called HIPAA that they must be aware of in addition to, confidentiality. HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. HIPAA is a federal privacy law that health professionals must follow in order to keep a patient’s medical information confidential. HIPAA regulations affect each and every staff member at a hospital, clinic or facility providing care to patients. Volunteers and visitors are also affected.

These regulations apply to you, too. Realize that working at a health-care facility is not like many other places of work. It is crucial that customer or patient’s information is kept confidential to maintain their trust.

What do I need to understand? What exactly does this mean?

This means the staff at any health-care facility has a legal duty to protect a patient’s privacy. It is a patient’s right to be treated confidentially in a health-care facility or by a health care professional. It is also important that a patient knows their privacy is protected.

  • If a patient feels that they cannot trust us with their information, they may withhold important information for fear of it getting exposed.
  • If a patient withholds this information, a doctor will not have all the information he or she may need to correctly diagnose the patient.
  • During your shadowing experience, you will be expected to keep any and all information you learn about a patient. DO NOT DISCUSS confidential patient information.

In order to understand better and to put it in perspective …

What if?

  • You found out that you had a sexually transmitted disease.
  • How would you feel if your doctor told his son that went to your school, and the son told everyone at school?
  • Your best friend was diagnosed with a terminal illness. How would you feel if the doctor told his daughter that went to your school, and the daughter told everyone at school before this person told them?
  • You are a star athlete. The state championship is a day away and you were just injured. What would happen if someone at the hospital told the media that you weren’t playing, and your team was now going to lose?

Confidentiality is important …

That is why health-care facilitates have policies like HIPAA. Luckily, if you ever needed to be treated for something you would not like anyone to know about, the people that treat you are not legally able to disclose that information. Everyone who works at a health-care facility knows the importance of the confidentiality of patients. Even the staff workers who do not regularly interact with patients understand that if they do obtain information for whatever reason, it is to be kept confidential.

Here are some possible situations that you could encounter while shadowing in health care.

  • A girl that you went to junior high with is in the maternity ward because she just had a baby.
  • You see a classmate’s mother who is being hospitalized and treated for depression.
  • You see the daughter of a teacher at your school getting help for problems with an eating disorder.
  • You see a friend from church that looks really sick, and think that it would be nice to tell the minister at church to visit him during his hospitalization.
  • You see a neighbor that is hospitalized because he is getting a liver transplant.

Any of these situations could very likely happen …

Even though it may be very tempting to tell someone else who may know the patient about what you saw, you cannot share or talk about this information with anyone (other than person you are shadowing with at the hospital).

Oftentimes patients do not want anyone, including their family, to know they are in the hospital. 

Always remember …

It is a patient’s right to receive treatment or care and that their visit be kept confidential.

You must keep a patient’s information confidential. There are no exceptions!

It is human nature to be curious and to want to share interesting information, but when dealing with patients’ information, there are no exceptions!

Even if you really trust your best friend, and you make your friend promise not to tell anyone, it is still violating the confidentiality of a patient. And who knows how many people your friend will tell after making other people promise not to tell?

Also, refrain from giving all the details about someone and thinking that you are not breaking any rules because you withheld the person’s name. It is not difficult to hear specific details about someone and figure out who they are. Someone could hear you talking and think, “that sounds just like Ben’s mom.”


If you have any questions about what is and what is not appropriate to share and talk about, please ask.

Health-care practitioners and facilities want to make sure that you have the proper information to deal with all the situations you will encounter properly.

There are Consequences!

The health-care facility you are shadowing at is required by law to keep a patient’s information confidential.

More importantly, as someone shadowing at that facility, YOU are required by law to keep a patients information confidential.

There are serious consequences for violating a patient’s confidentiality. Consequences for violations can range anywhere from $100 in fines to jail time.

Just remember …

  • Don’t tell anyone who you saw while shadowing.
  • Don’t share patient information.
  • Learn from your experience.
  • Consider health care as a profession.

Watch video on job shadowing etiquette


Are you interested in exploring health careers of all kinds? Download the AHEC Shadowing Packet

Not sure what area of the medical field you would like to shadow? Learn more about some different specialties of medicine.