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Introduction To Medical Electives

Your elective course is among most memorable aspects of the five to six years of medical school. It gives you the chance to travel anywhere in the world for between 4 and 12 weeks. It’s a major decision. Take your time, and don’t leave the decision until the final moment!


Medical electives can be a fantastic opportunity to develop abilities and broaden your medical interest in a new and unfamiliar area. You don’t have to travel much – there are plenty of possibilities to be a part of the UK such as with helicopter emergency crews. In contrast choosing a career-oriented or research-oriented elective (eg at a well-known oncology center) could greatly assist your career aspirations in the increasingly competitive job market.

If you’re certain you’d like to go abroad make sure you choose wisely. Sure, there are plenty of opportunities to travel abroad for holidays when you’re a doctor, however, it will not be an easy task in the near future to work in a rural settlement in Uganda for 8 weeks. as an example, you’ll have more bills to pay or you might own a houseand could have a family you need to support. If you’re thinking of traveling abroad as part of your elective ensure that you select an exciting, unique opportunity that you will probably never be able to repeat.

The purpose of the elective

It is crucial to determine what you would like to gain out of the UK medical elective. Do you want to get a general overview of the medical system/hospitals/conditions in the developed or less developed world? Are you seeking something specific? Are you looking to publish research papers? Do you want to teach? Do you want to be an expert in haematology working in a specialist haematology hospital? Are you keen to witness the most unusual medical conditions you have read about in textbooks? Do you wish to be competent at medical procedures, eg putting in chest drains through working in a trauma centre?


The best resource is former medical students who have completed their elective. They will have good ideas, contact details and may be able to get you in touch with colleagues who have experienced other electives. You can ask your foundation year 1 doctors (FY1s) or specialist registrars (StRs) or registrars as well as consultants. Everyone should be able to offer some great ideas and be willing to share experiences of their elective.

Most medical schools keep details of their medical electives that they have taken and may contain contacts as well as reviews. Royal colleges may be able assist with ideas or contact details regarding careers-focused destinations.

The Medic’s reference to work and electives across the globe 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. While both sites provide useful details, they’re not comprehensive. If you are feeling that you are getting nowhere, arrange a meeting with your hospital’s dean and careers lead.

The types of elective

There are many types of options, meaning there is a plethora of option. Do you wish to work in a developed world such as Australia and Europe? What about conducting cutting-edge research in modern hospitals situated in the USA? Do you want to see the provision of medical care in the developing areas in Africa or India? Are you more adventurous? If so, you should consider electives primarily based at the highest altitudes, like working with mountaineers or in ski resorts. Perhaps you can work in helicopter emergency personnel or even NASA? In addition, medical students from the past have worked at ‘low’ altitudes with scuba diving or hyperbaric centers.

Are you looking to brush up on your survival or language skills in the same time? Do you wish to conduct research, or build your skills in clinical or surgical? Perhaps you could do all of that while living on a tropical island in the Caribbean?


Begin thinking about your choice at least 18 months ahead of time. Most popular hospitals, destinations and schemes will be booked 6-12 months in advance, so book early wherever feasible. If you are planning to embark on an elective course with medical school colleagues It is likely that you will need be booked earlier to ensure you get a seat.

There are several commercial companies that handle each aspect of your planned. Although they’re generally efficient and productive but they are expensive.

Medical electives offer the opportunity to live healthcare and life in a new region. However, when you travel to less-known regions, you should be mindful of travel advice and be aware of any warnings. Also, check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website prior to booking and prior to traveling.


The cost of electives is usually high, and the costs quickly mount up: flights, accommodation as well as vaccinations, deposits processing fees, insurance, travel, spending money and so on. Work out your rough budget before you organise the elective. For instance it’s not worth taking a trip in New Zealand for 2 months in the event that your budget is lower than PS1 000. For electives that are specialised that is research-based or a humanitarian focus it is common to receive funding in the form of grants or awards. Check the websites of the royal colleges or specialist societies as well as the other medical associations for details. A Google search will likely be a good starting place, and you can apply for the grant early.

Final stage of preparations

In the midst of preparing for the final exam and applying for FY1, remember to make time for final preparations, including vaccinations, tests, health checks and visa applications – visas to the USA and Canada could take a few weeks, perhaps even months.

Make sure you have indemnity insurance along with a great travel insurance policy. Pre-exposure treatment (PEP) is something you should take along if it’s not available at the hospital you are visiting – hopefully you won’t need it. Visit your local infectious diseases or occupational health department for specifics.

Finally, if necessary consult your GP for advice about travel, including the need for malaria prevention as well as medical travel kits that can include antibiotics for emergencies (for diarrhoea, eye/ear infections etc) and basic medical equipment.

Finally – enjoy yourself.