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. 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.

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

For good advice on health profession shadowing, click here.

Observation Hours

Some professional programs, such as physical therapy and occupational therapy, expect more formal and sustained shadowing, with a set number of documented observation hours required.  These hours can range from 50 to 500.  Programs may provide a specific form to use in recording hours.  Click here to see an optional worksheet from the University of South Dakota.  As with shadowing, a variety of practice settings is recommended.


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 SD 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.

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 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, such as Golden Living Centers.