Articles and Case Studies

Preparing for and Making the Most of Your Elective

10 Jun 2013

This month The Elective Network (TEN) discusses the topic of elective preparation, and how to get the most out of your elective.

Choosing a destination can be half the battle when planning an elective. Language barriers, time difference, and finding correct contacts can be an uphill battle for some students, but once your placement is booked in below are some tips  to ensure that you make the most of your time on elective.

The Five Ps

One university elective coordinator has the following advice:

Visit MDA National&'s 2013 Conference to find out how to realise your dream elective!

Like any learning activity the five Ps apply- proper preparation prevents poor performance! Pre-departure training has been shown to improve students' self-confidence especially in tackling electives in culturally diverse low resource countries. Universities have a duty of care to ensure clinical placements are safe, that there are opportunities for learning and their students fulfill important ambassadorial roles.

Make sure you have a clear understanding of the cultural surroundings you will find yourself in. Have a clear grasp before you go of what level of responsibility you feel comfortable taking on before you get to the hospital. Read up on the many feedback reports on The Electives Network so you can see what other students have to say about safety, teaching opportunities and preparation they undertook.

If you are travelling to a developing country think about ways that you can contribute, not just to the hospital, but to the community as well. Bringing over state of the art equipment for the hospital may sound good in theory but think about what happens when machinery needs to be repaired? Does the hospital have a reliable power supply? Would you be better off bringing over textbooks? Stethoscopes? Gloves and scrubs? Speak to the elective coordinator beforehand to ensure that can contribute in a positive way.

The Electives Network (TEN) is the ultimate elective planning tool, with information on thousands of hospitals in 148 different countries, over 3000 student reviews and many other useful resources.

Membership of The Electives Network is free for MDA National Members, so login and make sure you make the most of this unique tool when you plan your elective.

Our all-time favourite contribution came from a student who was working in a paediatric hospital in Nepal and learnt how to make balloon animals before he left. He was a huge hit with the children and found himself, and his animals embedded in the community. Many rural and remote clinics are the hub of the community and your presence and response to those living there will be noted by all.

The elective coordinator mentioned at the outset gives this final piece of advice:

There is no such thing as a "perfect elective". Avoid high expectations and be willing to learn from the "ordinary".

If you need help or advice with your elective planning, please contact The Electives Network at If you have returned from your elective, please remember to submit your feedback to us.



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Among the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic for junior doctors is how to respond to medical training impacts and career uncertainty. In this podcast, Dr Caroline Elton (a psychologist who specialises in helping doctors)and Dr Benjamin Veness (a Psychiatry registrar) share advice for coping with medical training and career delays, disruptions and unknowns.


10 Aug 2020