The days are counting down until your elective period. It will seem like you’ve all the time in the world, but your elective placement will come and go before you know it. You have to think about what you want from your experience so you can start making clever decisions about where you need to go.
You only get one shot at this, so you have to make it count.
The thing with chances is they have a way of passing you by. If you don’t jump on them at the right time, they’re gone forever.Think about where you are in life. Is another chance like this going to present itself any time soon? Is this window of opportunity the last one you’re going to see for a while?
It’s difficult to plan in advance when you can’t be certain of what’s around the corner. But knowing when to spot an opportunity then take it is a skill that will take you far.
First you’re going to have to decide if you want to spend your placement at home or spend your placement overseas.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but without the right information it’s a tough call to make.
We’ve laid out the advantages an overseas placement has over staying at home below.
A big part of the elective experience is proving you’ve got what it takes. It’s a chance to show everyone that you’re capable of taking such things on by yourself. This is true for friends, family supervisors and, crucially, future employers.
In the words of the great American author and poet, Henry David Thoreau “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves." Going on an adventure — getting lost — is something you have to do at least once.
And how right he is.
World travel is one of the most valuable experiences a person can have. It builds both confidence and compassion if you let it. What's more, adventures like this have a unique way of freeing you from the troubles of everyday life.
To immerse yourself totally is to go one step further. Living and working in another country, another culture, delivers a perspective that is offered by no other experience. You’ll see things that others have never seen, not even seasoned travellers.
Try unusual foods, take part in festivals and make friends with new neighbours. Learn new customs and languages, and come to understand different ways of living. You can’t have an experience this deep with a backpack and a guidebook.
In your free time you’ll explore far beyond the reaches of the local community. Climb 5000ft mountains, dive on shipwrecks, trek through jungles, explore ancient cities and enjoy calm golden beaches with a cocktail or two. We have destinations to suit every taste.
Then there’s the all-important clinical aspect of your placement.
Broaden your horizons
On an overseas elective you’ll have to immediately start thinking outside the box.There are limits to how much clinical experience will help you develop within the boundaries of familiar surroundings. At home you only see a narrow range of illnesses, cases, patients, remedies and techniques.
From diseases like dengue fever that you’ve only read about in textbooks, to ailments that you’ve never even heard of, seeing new and unusual conditions will be a daily occurrence.
Patients in the developing world often present late. This means you’ll see advanced stage conditions that will surprise even the most experienced among you.
Under the watchful eye of your supervisor you’ll have the chance to perform tasks that would impossible on a UK placement. If you’re not afraid of getting stuck in, that is. Many practices and treatments will be entirely unfamiliar, or even contradict what you’ve been taught at home.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions around these practices, but always remember you’re here as a guest.
Open your eyes
The disparity between the services offered to patients in developed vs. developing nations will become immediately obvious. Lack of access to funds, equipment and resources means the level of care patients receive is limited.Our students tell us that working in healthcare systems in the developing world is eye-opening.
You’ll quickly see that healthcare professionals on under-resourced wards have to work incredibly hard to make up for this.
You’ll have a newfound appreciation for the luxuries afforded to both staff and patients back at home. You’ll also pick up skills from the seasoned professionals working in these testing environments - one of the key takeaways from the experience.
Relationships between staff and patients will be different to what you’re used to, as will the duties assigned to each role.
You may even find that the local attitudes and customs surrounding things like mental health, poverty and even death will challenge your fundamental beliefs.
There are many benefits to choosing to take your elective at home. It’s just that looking at your specialty from an entirely different angle will lend you a perspective that very few others have. These are all things you’ll simply miss out on at home. Our students always tell us that a new perspective is crucial to broadening your development as a healthcare professional.
It will set you apart and give you enough memories to last a lifetime.
If you've seen your chance and want to begin your journey, check out our elective placements abroad.