A Medical Elective program is undertaken by students in the penultimate or final year of study for their medical degree. This clinical period allows them to explore chosen areas of specialty, especially in a foreign country. Such a program enriches students’ experience and provides exposure to a hospital environment. It is believed that the clinical years of medicine are exciting, and their significance can be realized when one starts full-fledged medical practice. Choosing the right elective that you will enjoy can give a push to your career.
The purpose of electives is to help you gain additional knowledge about a specialty and prepare for residency. Undergoing an elective program provides the best opportunity to reinforce your skills or even try something that kindles your interests, such as sleep medicine or sports medicine.
How To Choose a Medical Elective Program?
A student can fully benefit from the clinical elective in medical school if he/she has already chosen the field of specialization. Information about various elective opportunities can be located at US Information Office.
Have a clear goal
Before stepping into this stage of clinical elective in medical school, it is important to be clear about your goal: Are you aiming at increasing your knowledge and experience in a specific clinical medicine? Do you want to be involved in research? Or do you want to observe patients suffering from medical conditions that you have read about in college?
Choose more than one elective.
It is suggested that the medical student chooses a couple of electives when considering a specialty program. Apart from the knowledge and training you get, you will be in a position to receive letters of recommendation and build some crucial connections.
Planning an Elective
Master a medical skill
Perhaps, the student must also give thought to gathering some skill in a medical field that may not be directly connected to the chosen elective. For instance, a student pursuing an elective in orthopedics may want to gain some experience in basic emergency medical treatment. This could come in handy anytime as a doctor.
Clinical rotations the way forward
Elective clinical rotations give room for students to zero in on the right medical specialty and gain profound experience in different clinical settings they are passionate about. During this period, you will be able to learn from qualified and experienced local professionals, who will guide and supervise you throughout your time abroad. Knowledgeable hospital employees will also teach you about the distinct healthcare practices in their country.
A period of self-discovery
Undertaking an elective program will let you handle practical tasks and the opportunity to treat patients under supervision when you will walk away with new information and improved competencies. This period will also help in self-discovery – identify your strengths and weaknesses and your ability to work under different circumstances. It will also equip you to acquire communication skills and the chance to empathize with patients.
Organizing Medical Electives
While a medical elective is a high point of your medical studies, putting together the process can be very challenging.
Choice of destination
Successfully organizing a medical elective includes choosing the destination, deciding options for research or clinical practice, and acquiring a good idea about budgeting and travel bursaries. A lot of thought goes into these decisions, depending on what type of experience you wish to draw from it. If you wish to go to the US to take up an elective, language will not be a problem. There are several advantages to taking up an international elective. Besides getting to know new cultures and health systems, you will also learn to respond to academic challenges that are unique to the new environment you are in.
Liaise with medical school early
Once you have selected the place, it is advisable to liaise with your medical school early, as there will be formalities to complete and conditions to fulfill.
Teaching or research?
It is crucial to make up your mind whether you want to teach or undertake research projects and based on this, and you can tailor your elective. This will help add to the value of your work record – something that will help when applying for training posts.
Work on the costs
It is well-known that electives can be very expensive. If the aspirant wishes to go abroad, he/she must take into account the cost of flights, placement fees, accommodation, insurance, vaccinations, visas, and spending money. Travel insurance must be acquired for most electives, and that must include health and medico-legal insurance. US institutions will also usually require a malpractice policy that insures you $1 million to $3 million. During the whole process, it is important to read the policy carefully before signing up and taking down a contact number in case of an emergency. Accommodation may be your largest expense. Seek help from administrators at the destination to find cheap, comfortable accommodation near your hospital. This is because you could be working long hours. It is advisable to check with the universities, first as many provide accommodation which the elective fee cover or they may offer at discounted rates.
Check out funds and grants.
Make sure that you also look into any funding and grants available to you. There are many awards and bursaries out there, so check the websites of the various medical associations and societies, as well as the royal colleges, for more details. Some medical schools also offer elective grants and insurance to their students, so it is worth investigating what your university can offer you.
Medical Electives For International Students
Undertaking a clinical elective in the USA gives you the opportunity to experience the state-of-the-art US health system first-hand. Since you will be considered as a fourth-year medical student in the US, you have to record patient case histories, perform physical examinations, and present details of the case to an attending physician. Since you are allowed to access the medical records system of the hospital, you review patient history and reports.
How do I apply for medical electives in the US?
To qualify for an elective in the US, the medical student must apply when he/she is in the final year and cannot apply if they already graduated. So, the ideal time to apply for electives is 6-8 months prior, as the application process is long and takes time to process. The application requirements include submission of documents like medical school transcripts, curriculum vitae, immunization records, TB skin tests, and letters of recommendation (one of which must be from the dean of your institution).
- A good TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score makes your CV more appealing. Though there are a few colleges that don’t ask for this score, few others can do with a letter from your college certifying that the medium of instruction is English. But a good TOEFL score is always good.
- The CV must be well-written, and almost all programs make it mandatory. The CV/resume should list your academic and non-academic accomplishments, professional memberships, awards, volunteering, extracurricular activities, etc. Please avoid attaching a photograph unless asked.
- A personal statement must outline who you are and how you developed an interest in medicine, your career goals, and the specialty of your choice.
- A letter of intent, though only a few programs require it, is like a personal statement, and this letter is addressed to the clerkship coordinator. This letter should narrate the reason for your interest in their program, your distinct competencies, and your long-term career goals.
- The transcript must outline the clinical experience you gained at your medical school. It should mention the duration of each rotation and grades obtained. The transcript should be printed on the medical school letterhead and stamped, and signed by the authority.
- Your college dean’s letter is important. This letter mostly states that the student is a final year student of the institution and has a good academic record etc. and that the student is permitted to take up the elective program at the university. The dean’s letter can also be used as a no-objection letter during the visa interview.
- It is a good idea to purchase insurance if you planning to undertake an elective course in the US. It might save the processing time for your application.
- Criminal background check reports are mandatory for some programs. For Indian students, it can be easily obtained via the Passport Seva Portal website.