Clinical Observation Opportunities


Professional schools encourage shadowing as a way to gain a first-hand look at the day-to-day lives of professionals in the field you intend to enter. In fact, some schools require shadowing experience prior to application to their programs. Some medical professionals have their own offices while others spend the majority of their day in surgery or at the hospital. The goal is to observe and learn about the workday experiences of a professional in practice.  Shadowing also gives you the opportunity to see different specialties and aspects of health professions.

Start with your hometown physicians, dentists, physical therapists, and other health professionals, who already know you and may even know of your health care interests.  Then explore shadowing opportunities at a variety of health care sites appropriate to your interests, such as large and small hospitals, urgent care centers, private clinics, community health centers, assisted living and nursing facilities, free clinics, hospice centers, and pharmacies. Be sure to keep track of your hours and experiences to use the information when applying to professional schools. Go to the bottom of this page to find templates for shadowing logs.

Contact the Pre-Health Pathways Advisor for assistance obtaining shadowing and internship experiences.

For tips on getting the most out of your shadowing experiences, click here.

Observation Hours

Some professional programs, such as physical/occupational therapy, orthotics/prosthetics, and pharmacy, expect more formal and sustained shadowing with a set number of documented observation hours required. These hours can range from 50 to 500, or even more, and must be verified by a professional. Keep track of your hours and experiences to use the information when applying to professional schools. Go to the bottom of this page to find templates for observation logs.


Volunteering is a great way to demonstrate your commitment to health care and to service.   You’ll have opportunities for service activities through the clubs and organizations at South Dakota Mines, such as the Future Health Science Professionals. 

For volunteering that includes patient contact, consider volunteering at local hospitals and assisted living or nursing facilities.  In Rapid City, contact Rapid City Regional Hospital’s Volunteer Services or one of the local nursing facilities. Explore the Helpline Center website for a directory of local volunteer opportunities in a wide variety of settings.

Other Clinical Experiences

Although the training takes time, some students find working as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) or Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) to be a rewarding way to gain hands-on clinical experience.  EMT classes are typically available from community colleges or vocational-technical schools, such as Western Dakota Technical Institute.  CNA training is offered free by some nursing facilities.

Some health facilities provide on-the-job training for positions such as Patient Care Technician (PCT), Patient Champion, and Phlebotomist. In Rapid City, Regional Health offers these opportunities.

Although some professional schools have no preference regarding hands-on experience versus shadowing, most physician assistant programs require hundreds of hours of hands-on patient care experience. To achieve the required number of hours, students interested in a physician assistant career should begin gaining experience as soon as possible.

Templates for Recording Experiences

Use these templates to record your experiences, get them verified by a professional if necessary, and transfer the information to your professional school applications.

Dentistry: verified observer/volunteer/work hours

Medicine (Physicians and Physician Assistants) and Podiatry: unverified observer hours

Orthotics and Prosthetics: verified observer/volunteer/work hours

Pharmacy: verified observer/volunteer/work hours

Physical and Occupational Therapy: verified observer/volunteer/work hours

Veterinary Medicine and Animal Care: verified observer/volunteer/work hours

General Templates:

Verified health care experience in any discipline

Verified observer/work hours in any discipline or setting (including non-clinical)