How To Shadow A Nurse: Everything You Need to Know

Compared to other jobs, figuring out how to shadow a nurse can seem tricky. Thankfully, there are plenty of opportunities out there if you know where to look! In this article, we’ll explore why you should consider shadowing a nurse, where to find opportunities, and what you should expect. Nurses Career Support Knowledge


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How To Shadow A Nurse: Everything You Need to Know

If you're preparing to start a career in nursing or are looking for a new specialty to expand your skill set, shadowing a nurse is a great idea. Even a few hours of shadowing gives you an idea of whether you'd like the job you're planning to apply for or not!

What is Nurse Shadowing?

Shadowing a nurse gives students (and nurses seeking a new job) a chance to follow another nurse as they perform their daily tasks. The nurse you shadow will typically share stories and advice while answering questions you have about their job. You'll also see a sample of their workday, what the culture of the unit looks like, and the reality of their job description.

Benefits of Shadowing a Nurse

If you're considering shadowing a nurse, know there are many benefits to consider. Diving headfirst into a nursing job without any experience often leads to some serious shock once you begin your new role.

Nurse shadowing gives you a sneak peek at what to expect. It can also keep you from accepting a job you won't like without having to go through the hiring process and orientation. The benefits don't stop there, though. Here are a few more key benefits of shadowing a nurse.

Start Your Career On a Good Note

If you're currently a nursing student, shadowing a nurse is one of the best things you can do for your future career. You may already have a post-graduation dream job lined up. Or you might be searching for something that fits your passion. Before accepting any job, take the time to shadow a nurse on that floor. You'll learn a lot about whether the environment is where you want to start your nursing journey.

Create a Professional Network

Opportunities in nursing can come from unexpected places. When you shadow a nurse, you begin to form a relationship with them. Most of the time, you'll shadow a more experienced nurse who has lots of expertise and advice to share. If you form a good working relationship with them and stay in touch, you can ask for a letter of recommendation down the road. You'll also have a mentor to turn to when you need a helping hand. They may even be able to help you find new opportunities for promotion or leadership as you advance your career.

Find Your Specialty

Many nurses who gain a few years of experience working on a general care floor decide they'd like to specialize. But finding a specialty you think you might like is often different than liking it in real life. Shadowing a nurse allows you to experience life as a nurse in that specialty before leaving your job and diving in head first. Better yet, you can shadow nurses in several different specialties to get a feel for which one you might like best without having to commit to just one!

How to Shadow a Nurse

If you're sold on the benefits of why you should be shadowing, now you're probably wondering how to shadow a nurse. There are a few key things to consider.

How to Find a Nurse to Shadow

Finding a nurse to shadow can be daunting if you don't have contacts in the healthcare world. If you're still in school, consider asking one of your professors or clinical instructors. They may be able to reach out to their network of co-workers.

You can also reach out directly to the facility where you want to shadow. Consider sending a professional email or calling to inquire about shadowing opportunities. Hiring managers and HR coordinators are typically a good starting point—and you can usually find their contact information online.

If this doesn't work, consider applying for a job you're interested in. Then, when you have an interview with the hiring manager, you can ask them directly if there are any opportunities to shadow one of their nurses before accepting the job.

Come Prepared

Nurses are busy people. So when you're ready to shadow one, it's important to come prepared. You don't want to hold your nurse back by not knowing where to go or having questions to ask.

You also need to dress and act professionally when interacting with other staff and patients. The facility you're shadowing at may give you specific instructions on what to wear. If not, a clean pair of scrubs and comfortable shoes typically works well.

Follow Instructions

Your job while shadowing is to learn as much as possible without interfering with the nurse's tasks. Be sure to follow instructions closely at all times. This includes instructions from the nurse you're shadowing as well as other hospital personnel.

Ask Questions

If you want to get the most out of your shadowing experience, be sure to come prepared with plenty of questions. Most nurses are happy to answer your questions and offer advice. But they won't be able to give you answers if you don't ask! Coming up with a list of questions in advance can help you be present and soak in everything you're learning without distractions.


Shadowing a nurse is a great opportunity, whether you're just starting your career or are looking to advance it. Make the most of your time by being professional, prepared, and curious. Chances are, what you learn while shadowing will help shape your nursing career into the one of your dreams.

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