Often time, applicants to residency training in US work hard to secure observerships or some sort of extra experience (clinical or research) that will help boost their chances of residency. Such experiences and opportunities are hard to come by and the good ones are very competitive or the more easily available ones are expensive. Sadly, more often than not, it is easy to lose sight of the purpose of such experiences. Getting an observership is a good thing but that it itself will have limited value when it comes to residency match. If you secure an observership or an ancillary clinical experience or two, at the least it will add a few lines on your CV and show that you have been productive. This is especially true if you have been out of medical school for a while. It does have some benefits, however, if you believe getting an observership is the end goal then this benefit would be marginal at best and a good opportunity would be lost to really do something nice for your application.
I believe that such clinical opportunities even research experiences should never be a goal to achieve, the goal should be to make such an opportunity to work for you. Think of these opportunities as a stepping stone to do something more that what they are – use them fully to market your self and make connections. While it may sound a little disappointing that getting an observership opportunity is really not the goal, I would like to recommend the lucky folks who do get such opportunity to make full use of it.
Think: Before you begin, think how you are going to make most of this. Are you going to go above and beyond the needed to make an impact? Are you planning to really make an impact on the people you work with? How can you as a person stand out in a very positive manner with respect to your professional talents and your personal profile. Is there something about the place you are going to be at that is unique and of your use?
Strategize/plan/execute: make strong positive connections. Remind people that you are there to help. Go the extra mile to make an impression. You never know which opportunity may be around the corner so the only time to relax and let your guard down is when you are home. Be courteous and caring. Stay updated and speak up. Wallflowers are easily forgotten, so don’t be one.
In summary, observership for sake of such is not going to be as useful because in reality while it does add a line on your CV that is not making full use of the opportunity. I think of an obsie as a stepping-stone to market your self. Think of this as the first step towards rigorous and demanding hard work to market your talents professionally and personally. The buck never stops when you get such opportunity, what you make of it opportunities is what matters.