How to Make the Most of Your Optometry Shadowing Experience

School of Optometry

The very best way to discover if a career in optometry is right for you? Shadow an optometrist and experience the field first hand. You’ll gain invaluable insight from the people who know it best: Optometrists.

“Shadowing helps you to develop your story,” said Maryke Neiberg, OD, FAAO, Dean of the School of Optometry. “When it comes time to interview, you will appreciate the time you spent in this all-important activity. There is no substitute for the experience and enthusiasm you will gain as a result of shadowing.”

We recommend that you shadow at least three optometrists, preferably in different practice settings. Some optometry practices provide a range of primary care services, while others focus on optometric specialties, including vision therapy, low vision, pediatric vision, ocular disease and cornea/contact lenses. All of these settings provide unique opportunities for exposure and insight into the field.

Check out our tips for securing a shadowing opportunity – and making the most of the experience:

Submit a thoughtful request

Once you identify doctors you hope to shadow, write a thoughtful letter requesting a shadowing opportunity lasting one to two days.

In your letter, include what you hope to gain from a shadowing experience. Be sure to avoid generalities and specifically reference the doctor or setting you are inquiring about. Include a little bit about yourself, including how you became interested in optometry. Indicate that you will follow up within the next week to discuss your request in more detail.

Make it personal

The best way to get your request into the right hands is by mailing your letter directly to the office. Hand-address the envelope and write “personal” on the outside of it, to alert office staff to a personal request.

Keep it in perspective

Remember that the goal of a shadowing opportunity isn’t to learn about patient care or procedures. Instead, your focus should be on gaining insight and advice from the doctor you’re shadowing. Focus on the “big picture,” instead of getting into the details.

Jump start the conversation

Try using the phrase “Tell me about…” to jump start the conversation with the doctor you’re shadowing. You can talk to anyone about almost any subject using this handy phrase. For example:

  • Tell me about the future of optometry.
  • Tell me about your experience in the optometry field.
  • Tell me how optometry has been a rewarding profession for you.
  • Tell me, would you be an optometrist if you had to do it all over again?
  • Tell me your best advice for someone thinking about a future in optometry.

Say thank you

After you have finished your shadowing experience, take the time to write a personalized thank you note to the doctor you shadowed, as well as to any staff members who assisted you during your shadowing experience. The doctor you have shadowed has given you their time and thoughtful advice, and it is important to show that you appreciate their efforts on your behalf.

Stay in touch

Each optometrist you meet during the application process and during your time as a student represents an important connection. As you progress with your educational and professional career, stay in touch with the doctors you’ve shadowed by connecting on LinkedIn. Networking is an important part of career advancement, and it’s never too early to start.