Your elective can be an exciting and life changing adventure. Unfortunately, when you first decide to undertake an elective it can seem a difficult and overwhelming task to get things organised!
If you're not sure where to start, try considering these tips, suggestions and resources as a starting point. With some effective planning and organisation your elective can be an amazing experience - both medically and personally.
Planning your elective
What do you want to achieve?
Before you start considering placement locations, think about what it is you'd actually like to get out of your elective. What are your objectives clinically, educationally and personally? Do you want to stay within Australia or travel overseas? Work within a world class hospital or a developing world community? Metropolitan, regional, rural or remote?
There are many questions to consider, and it will be easier for you to find your ideal placement location if you are clear on these things first.
Make sure you meet the requirements of your course
Before you commence planning, make sure you are clear on the requirements and the timings for your elective as determined by your medical school - this could save you heartache later on!
Start your planning early
Many students contact numerous hospitals and clinics before being accepted. We've heard of a student who contacted over 50 before receiving a positive response! Some also have extensive waiting lists so be wary of this if you have your heart set on a specific location.
To ensure you are accepted into one of your preferred locations, and to meet the timing requirements of your medical school, make sure you commence your planning well in advance.
Finding a suitable elective location
Be open and flexible when researching possible elective destinations. Talk to your elective coordinator, senior students, family, friends and colleagues - you never know where you may get an idea, some inspiration or a contact from. Visit the Elective Grants Program page and read about the experiences of past Elective Grant recipients. Many of them have undertaken challenging but safe and well-supervised placements that may also appeal to you.
There are also a number of companies that organise elective placements for medical and health students. These can be very helpful but make sure you understand what is involved and what is required of you before you commit.
Some specific resources you may like to use include:
|The University of Queensland Medical Student Society
||UQMS's database of medical elective reviews.|
|Beyond Borders, Hamish Graham
||A medical student's guide to a successful overseas placement. Check your university library to see if they have a copy.|
|A Medic's Guide to Work and Electives Around the World, Mark Wilson
||A guide to help you plan your elective with information and hospital details for over 100 countries around the world.|
||A database of hospitals around the globe where students can undertake electives and broaden their experience in trauma and critical care.|
||Projects Abroad offers a wide variety of elective placements in developing countries specifically designed to meet the needs of medical students.|
Your local medical student society, global health group or elective coordinator may also be able to provide you with some direction.
When negotiating your placement make sure you are clear on what your role will involve, what expectations there will be of you and how you can best prepare. Make sure you receive written confirmation of your acceptance including the agreed timings of your placement.
When booking and undertaking your elective you will be personally responsible for all expenses, including those relating to travel, transport, accomodation and living. Try compiling a detailed budget outlining all of the likely costs as this may assist you in filtering your options.
Don't forget to consider applying for financial assistance through the MIGA Elective Grants Program - you could receive $2,000 towards your expenses!
Do your homework before you leave
Ensure you get the most out of your elective placement by doing your homework prior to leaving. Don't forget to consider:
- Is the country you are visiting currently safe and politically stable? Make sure you visit the Smartraveller website for information and advice and to ensure it is safe to travel.
- Make sure you spend time researching the culture of the region - your elective may be as much about the cultural experience as the clinical experience.
- Can you speak the local language? If not, make sure your supervisor speaks your language as this may assist you in interacting with other doctors, staff and patients.
- You may be vulnerable to certain health risks - visit your doctor well in advance of your travel and ensure you have any necessary vaccinations.
Consider taking medical aid to the community you visit
You can make a significant contribution to your host community by taking medical supplies or offering other additional support. Speak to your host supervisor as they may have a wish list of other items most needed by the hospital or clinic. If you take physical supplies don't forget to consider transport costs and custom restrictions.
In addition to their $2,000 Grant, all recipients of the MIGA Elective Grants Program receive a $1,500 Medical Support Grant to provide medical or other aid to the community they visit.
During your elective
When you're finally on location your prior hard work and preparation will stand you in good stead. Although you may be nervous and at times feel out of your depth, make sure you take advantage of the chance to undertake supervised work with patients - and don't be afraid to ask questions. Many students suggest taking along a pocket-sized medical handbook - you never know when it might come in handy!
Am I covered by MIGA on my elective?
As a student member of MIGA your medical indemnity insurance includes cover for elective placements worldwide. Providing your elective has the prior approval of your medical school or university, cover for your elective is automatic - there is no need for you to notify us of your intention to travel, nor is your elective cover subject to an approval process.
We recognise the busy life of a student, so keeping things simple for you is important to us. You can undertake your elective confident that you have insurance protection and the resources of MIGA to support you, should you need it. With MIGA behind you, you can complete your elective with confidence.
Not a student member of MIGA? You too can be supported by our free Protection Package, simply complete our online Application Form.