Work shadowing

If you are planning to return to practice or change your sector of practice, work shadowing is an effective way to gain exposure to your new career. Work shadowing is a temporary, unpaid, work-based experience in the sector and work areas of your choice and interest.

How to make most of your shadowing experience

One of the greatest benefits of a shadowing experience comes from networking and the contacts you make. Shadowing experience can help you build your credibility, strengthening your CV and personal statements, and contributing towards your confidence for interviews.

You can organise your shadowing opportunities by calling potential employers yourself, or by taking advantage of any previous connections you might have, such as colleagues you have worked with, or through other networks of the pharmacy profession e.g. RPS return to practice group. 

Pre shadowing

Before you begin your work shadowing invest a bit of time and effort in:

  • Identifying your intended sector of practice
  • Researching recent developments in your identified sector of practice
  • Reviewing your existing knowledge, skills and experience (but do not pressure yourself to recall from memory, details of your previous roles, especially if these are from the distant past, as this will only creates unnecessary stress!)
  • Deciding where you wish to work, with what type of employer, and what level you think matches your current skills and interests
  • Identifying what learning you would like to achieve through your shadowing experience
  • Registering on the RPS online database to access mentorship support
  • Structuring what you need to update, what form this updating should take, and making a plan for your updating period (your RPS mentor may help you to facilitate this).

During work shadowing

Some top tips:

  • Ensure you have an understanding of the employer and work environment
  • Log who you shadowed, and for how long, their contact information. Note the variety of skills and attributes the person you shadowed exhibited, especially those you believe are important to you for successful practice in the profession
  • Pay close attention to what is being said/done throughout (the level of interest you display will determine the input and feedback you will receive, and who knows, they may be a potential employer for you!)
  • Ask lots of questions about the profession, the work routine, issues etc remembering the focus is always on service to patients and the public. If the person you are shadowing is busy, write down questions as they come up and get answers before you leave
  • Take notes or keep an informal journal of your observations, verified by signatures or initials, if appropriate. This can be an effective way to remember important facts learned during your job shadowing, and is likely to contribute towards your CPD portfolio. This also shows potential employers that you can focus on a situation and that you pay attention to detail
  • Note any details relating to specific situations with the team/protocols/patients (anonymised) which expanded your understanding. This may also be useful in supporting statements for your interviews and for your CPD portfolio
  • Use all available opportunity to network while you are there
  • At the end of each day, spend fifteen or twenty minutes reflecting on the experience and writing down your thoughts. What did you learn about the profession that you did not previously know, and/or how did the experience change your impressions about some aspects of the job? You will also be able to draw on this experience during future interviews.

Post shadowing

  • Did the experience help confirm that this is this the environment you wish to work in?
  • Do you require further period of shadowing practice, and/or need to undertake an approved training course
  • Do you require on-going reviews/follow-ups with your mentor? You may decide to undertake some private study followed by regular meetings with a local employer or a peer, complimented by mentoring
  • Do you have an interest in leadership development? If so, you may wish to access the self-analysis tool provided by the NHS networks which can be used in conjunction with the RPS Leadership Competency Framework (LCF) for pharmacy professionals.