Shadowing and Clinical Experience

If you are considering a career in a health profession, you should have experiences that demonstrate what it means to be, for example, a physical therapist or physician assistant, and that you are truly committed to helping those with medical problems. Some students may choose a career in the health professions because these careers are lucrative and offer abundant job opportunities in the future. However, a poor choice can mean that you will be unhappy in your career. Admissions committees are looking for students who demonstrate a sincere interest in, and are an appropriate match for their chosen career.

What counts as experience? Some programs accept shadowing, while others require hands-on patient contact. For example, shadowing a physician is recommended for medical school, but 1000 or more hours of direct patient contact is expected of an applicant for a physician assistant program. Once again, look at the program web sites of various schools to find out what the expectations are for clinical experience.

Finding an Internship or Relevant Employment

Don’t be intimidated! This is easier than you think. There are many opportunities out there; you just need some help finding out what and where they are.  One opportunity for students interested in medicine is the Health Professions Pre-medical Clinical Internship/Shadowing Program.  This program matches Wake Undergraduates with physicians in the Wake Forest Baptist Health System. Applications are accepted twice a year. Students shadow two physicians, for half a semester each. The number of hours is variable.  For more information, visit

Another place to look for ideas is the Office of Personal and Career Development (OPCD) in Reynolda Hall. The minute you settle into your dorm, go to Follow the login instructions, using your Wake Forest username and password to sign in. Fill out the profile at the top of the page, and select “Profile” from the left hand navigation. Add your work experience, extracurricular activities, and any special skills you may have. Then, click the account tab and specify the industry and job functions that interest you. Internships and jobs related to your selections will appear in your news feed, and you will receive notification of relevant events on campus. You’ll want to periodically update Handshake, and begin to check it frequently as summer or a gap year approaches and you are looking for the perfect internship or job.

Another great site to visit is, where you can find lists of opportunities under headings such as health professions, biology, chemistry, community and social services, international gap year opportunities, and public health. 

Each spring the North Carolina Health Professions Fair comes to Wake Forest, organized by OPCD. Various schools in all disciplines send admissions representatives to recruit students. 

OPCD also offers career fairs each year, where hundreds of companies interested in hiring Wake Forest students will be represented. These include the Fall Career Fair in September, and the STEM Slam Networking event in February (this is a particularly good one). Once you have comfortably reached your third year, a definite must is the November Graduate and Professional School Day, when representatives from many health professions programs will be in attendance. As you begin to think about specific programs, be sure to attend the March Health Professions Expo, where admissions officers from a diversity of programs at many schools will be present. This is a time to feel them out about whether or not you are a good fit for their program.

Finally, once you begin to think about an internship or job, make an appointment with an OPCD Career coach. They can help. Who to contact:

Brian Mendenhall ( – specializes in the sciences and health professions.

Patrick Sullivan ( – specializes in internships and experiential education.