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Considerations When Preparing For A Medical Elective

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The elective you choose to take is among the highlights of your five to six years in medical school. It gives you the chance to go anywhere in the world for 4-12 weeks. It’s an important choice. Choose wisely make sure you don’t leave decision until the last moment!


Medical electives are a wonderful chance to learn new skills and broaden the scope of medical research in a new and unfamiliar place. You don’t have to travel far , as there are plenty of exciting opportunities within the UK, for example with helicopter emergency crews. In contrast, research or careers-focused electives (eg at an internationally renowned cancer center) will greatly enhance your career goals in the ever-sharp market for jobs.

If you’re sure you’d like to travel abroad, choose carefully. Sure, there are plenty of opportunities to travel overseas for holidays while you’re a doctor however, it might not be so easy in the future to be working in a rural town in Uganda for eight weeks. for instance, you’ll have more bills to pay or you might own a houseand could have a family you need to care for. If you are intent on going abroad to pursue your dream ensure that you select an unforgettable, memorable experience that you will probably not get the chance to take again.

Aims of the elective

It is essential to consider what you’d like from the elective. Do you want to get a general overview of the medical system/hospitals/conditions in the developed or less developed world? Do you want something more specific? Are you looking to publish research papers? Do you wish to teach? Are you looking to become an expert in haematology by working at a specialist haematology hospital? Are you looking to observe the most unusual medical conditions you’ve read in textbooks? Are you looking to become proficient at medical procedures for example, putting in chest drains by working at the trauma centre?


The best source will be former medical students who were on their elective. They’ll have some great suggestions, contact details and may be able to get you in contact with colleagues who’ve had experiences with different electives. Talk to the foundation year one doctors (FY1s) or specialist registrars (StRs), registrars and consultants – everyone should have some ideas of their own and may be willing to share their experiences from their elective.

Many medical schools maintain records of medical electives taken in the past, which may include contact details and reviews. Royal colleges may be able to help you by providing ideas or contact details for career-oriented destinations.

The Medic’s guide to work and electives all over the world provides detailed information about hospitals and nations, along with contact information. The Electives Network website gives useful information as well as student reviews of electives. Although both provide valuable information, they’re neither exhaustive. So, if you think that you are getting nowhere meet with your hospital’s dean and your career manager.

The types of elective

There are many types of elective so you’ll have a wide choice. Are you looking to work in the developed world, such as Australia or Europe? What about conducting the most cutting-edge research in modern hospitals within the USA? Would you like to see the provision of medical treatment in the developing world , particularly in rural areas of Africa as well as India? Or are you even more adventurous? If so, consider alternatives that focus on high altitude – such as working with mountaineers as well as in ski resorts. What about working with emergency helicopters or even NASA? In addition, medical students from the past have been employed at low altitude with scuba diving / hyperbaric centres.

Do you wish to brush up on your language or survival skills in the same time? Are you keen to conduct research, or build your clinical/surgical skills? How about doing all of that while living on an exotic island within the Caribbean?


Consider your options for elective at least 18 months ahead of time. The most popular elective locations, hospitals and programs will be booked 6-12 months in advance therefore, make sure you book your tickets as soon as feasible. If you’re planning in your elective program with medical school students It is likely that you will need be booked earlier to ensure a spot.

There are many commercial companies that will organise all aspects of your choice. While they’re typically efficient and effective but they are expensive.

Medical electives can give an unparalleled opportunity to experience the medical system and lifestyle in a new region. However, in less familiar areas, be aware of travel tips and warnings, and always look up for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website prior to booking and prior to traveling.


The cost of electives is usually high, and the expenses quickly add up: flights, accommodation as well as vaccinations, deposits processing fees, insurance, travel, spending money and more. Create a budget prior to arranging the elective. For example, it is not worth traveling to New Zealand for 2 months with a budget less than PS1,000. For electives that have a specific in research, humanitarian or other areas it is common to receive funding through grants or awards. Check the websites of Royal Colleges, specialist societies or other medical associations to find out more information. A Google search is likely to be a good starting place look up and then apply as early as possible.

Final stage of preparations

While you’re preparing for your final exams and applying for FY1, remember to allow plenty of time to finalize your preparations, which includes vaccinations, tests, health tests and visa applications. visas for countries like the USA and Canada can take weeks, as well as months.

Do not forget to include indemnity coverage as well as a good travel insurance plan. Prophylactic treatment for post-exposure (PEP) is something you should take with you even if it’s not readily accessible at the hospital of your choice – hopefully you won’t need it. Check with your local infectious disease or occupational health department for information.

Last but not least you should visit your GP for advice regarding travel. This includes the necessity of malaria prevention and medical travel kits, which could include emergency antibiotics (for diarrhoea or eye/ear infections) as well as some essential medical equipment.

Finally – enjoy yourself on your UK medical elective.