Shadowing in the UW Emergency Department can be a very valuable experience. Emergency Medicine allows undergraduates, medical students, and external visitors the opportunity to shadow physicians in the ED. All observers may shadow one time per academic year, with minimal exceptions for extraordinary circumstances.

Undergraduate or External Observers

Interested non-medical student observers should first request sponsorship by a member of the Emergency Department faculty. Once a faculty member agrees to sponsorship, interested observers must complete an Observer Application.

After the interested observer submits an electronic application, faculty are asked to email the observer request to Jenna Wepfer ( and Elena Dai ( in order to begin UWHC paperwork for undergraduates and external observers. Please include the following information in the email:

  • Observer contact (first/last name, email address)
  • Date and time of observation (if known)
  • Reason for observation

Jenna Wepfer will submit the sponsor application to UWHC, and in turn, UWHC will send the observer additional forms and information. 

Additional information about the process and observation requirements from UWHC Vendor Liaisons can be found here.

Observers are required to return paperwork to UWHC Vendor Liaisons Office 3 weeks prior to shadowing. Documentation for Hepatitis B, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Varicella will also be requested from each observer. Please ensure observers are aware of this time frame and choose observation dates well in advance (at least one month is suggested). It is also suggested that observers schedule a time to meet with Elena Dai to tour the ED and learn how to access the ED on day of observation. All observers will be required to obtain and wear an observer badge during their shift. UWHC Vendor Liaisons charges $25 to supply a badge.

Shadowing is allowed any day of the week on any UWH adult shift (excluding FCA) between the hours of 0700 and 2200 (7am-10pm). It will be expected that observers will not be scheduled from July to October due to the volume of medical students rotating through the ED. Observers may not be scheduled on shifts that already have medical student learners present.

UWSMPH Medical Students

UW medical students do not need to complete UWHC paperwork, with the exception of the following: 

  • Students in between M1 and M2 year need to go through the UWHC Observer paperwork, same as undergraduates and external observers. See above.
  • Students taking a year off also need to go through the UWHC Observer paperwork, same as undergraduates and external observers. See above.

Medical student observations can be scheduled by emailing Niki Hagen, Medical Student Education Coordinator,


How do you shadow a physician?

Below are some quick tips for students looking to shadow:

Tour the Emergency Department

All observers must complete a brief tour of ED prior to their shift. During this tour, observers will learn how to gain access to ED, where to get a visitor’s badge, and receive an overview of protocols while shadowing.

Bring a notebook

Jot down notes during your experience. The focus of clinical encounters is the patient, not the student. This is unlike routine classroom interactions and can be difficult to get used to, but it is the reality of patient care. Complex decisions are often being made, and you don’t want to interrupt the doctor-patient conversation. On rounds, physicians use a lot of abbreviations so you may not be able to follow everything. Please save all questions for an email to the physician at a later time. Do not disrupt the flow of the physician’s rounds by asking questions during your experience unless the physician prompts you to.

Wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes and business casual dress

You may be on your feet for a while, and it is important to project a professional image as a visitor. It is also important that your shoes are not open-toed since your feet are at risk of coming into contact with equipment, body fluids, or sharps. The visitor’s badge that you receive from UWHC Vendor Liaisons must be worn at all times.

Assigned Faculty to Shadow

If the faculty you are assigned to shadow switched shifts and another faculty is on, please shadow the faculty that is on. Faculty in Emergency Medicine switch shifts often, all of our faculty are great educators, so you will be in good hands.

Stay safe

While in the ED, you may experience some unusual and possibly graphic cases. If you feel dizzy or lightheaded during your shadowing experience, please quietly remove yourself from the room and sit down. We want your experience to be on the observing side, not on the patient side with a fall.

Respect patient privacy

There may be a patient who does not want you in the room. Everything you see in the hospital is private and not to be repeated or written about in a manner that could lead to the identification of the patients involved. If you are not already affiliated with the hospital in some capacity (e.g. doing research), you may be required to sign a form for HIPAA stating that you will respect patient privacy.

Follow up

Don't forget that you were a guest on rounds, so it is courteous to follow up with a thank you to the physician.

Reflect on your experience

You may want to recall your experience, the types of cases you saw or how you felt. Writing a short reflection of your thoughts is a good way to keep those memories fresh (but remember not to include any identifying information – see above).