Stuck for nursing elective placement ideas?
Why not combine eye-opening clinical experience and adventure by travelling overseas and doing your elective in a low-resource hospital?
Here you’ll find inspiration for electives in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and how the experience will help prepare you for a job in nursing.
You can travel if you’re on one of the following nursing branches:
- Adult Nursing
- Child Nursing
- Mental Health Nursing
- Learning Disability Nursing
Adult Nursing Elective Placement Ideas
If you’re studying adult nursing, you’re already familiar with the 6Cs — they’re the backbone of any successful career in your field.
But they’re not the only skills you need to succeed.
The NHS outlines other responsibilities and characteristics you have to develop:
‘You'll be responsible for several patients, each with different needs so you'll be highly organised, flexible and able to prioritise effectively.
A good adult nurse is also highly observant, able to assess patients and take responsibility for determining the best course of action for them.’
Nursing is a varied and demanding vocation. But don’t worry — an overseas nursing elective will help get you ready for the job.
For example, developing your communication skills in an overseas environment paves the way to becoming a better listener. It helps you develop an even deeper compassion for the people you’re tasked with caring for.
Nadia, a student who undertook her elective in Ghana, describes how her placement in Ghana helped her find common ground with her patients from minority groups in Leeds:
“There’s no question that my elective in Ghana prepared me for work. I work in Leeds, which is a culturally diverse place, so a lot of the patients I treat are from overseas. Whenever I see women from Ghana, or countries near Ghana, we immediately have something to talk about. The experience also helped me better understand patients who have already had babies in low-resource settings. I try to make their experience in the UK easier by explaining what they can expect to be different.’
Undertaking your nursing elective placement overseas and you can rotate through as many departments as you have time for. You’ll get exposure to areas you might eventually decide to specialise in.
You can get experience in small clinics, regional hospitals, on community outreach programmes, even in remote tribal villages.
Hugh Le Leivre undertook his elective in Tanzania. The experience helped him figure out what kind of practitioner he wanted to be. He now works in a rural GP clinic in Australia, and it’s clear his elective experience influenced this decision:
‘The overseas experience affirmed my passion for community based and preventative healthcare. […] It will change the way you see your career.’
Child Nursing Elective Placement Ideas
As you already know, children’s healthcare needs are specific. That means you have to have a breadth of knowledge, but also a depth of compassion and understanding. The job also means working closely with parents and guardians.
The NHS outlines the responsibilities and ideal characteristics of a children’s nurse like this:
‘You’ll need to be intuitive and able to reassure distressed children, their family or carers. Verbal and non-verbal communication skills are important as well as the ability to play sensitively with a child. You'll need to advise or teach the child's parents or guardians what they’ll need to do to treat the child at home. Respect, sensitivity and empathy are also important characteristics for a child nurse.’
Getting experience in a low-resource clinical setting is the best way to prepare you for the situations. You’ll work with children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, learn how to work around language barriers, and get to grips with how children’s nurses get around severe resource limitations and still provide a good level of care for their patients.
Helen Scivier, a student who undertook her placement overseas, outlines some of the things she experienced on a typical day on placement:
‘The children on the surgical ward were there for a variety of reasons. Some had fractured limbs, others were post-appendectomy. One boy I helped care for was awaiting a skin graft following a 40% burn. A typical day on placement for me involved listening to the ward rounds, chatting and playing with the children, assisting the nurses with medicine rounds and helping with dressing changes and observation. I jotted down some basic phrases in the local language, which helped when communicating with the children and their families.’
Getting experience with child patients and their families, finding ways to communicate with them and making them feel at ease put Helen far closer to her goal of becoming a proactive child nurse.
Your career options are wide open as a child nursing student. You could work in hospitals, dedicate your time to research, or specialise in health visits.
Undertaking your placement overseas will give you a good idea of where you might want to work in the future. One of the reasons being that you can rotate through as many hospital departments as you've an interest in.
Madison, a nursing student who undertook her placement in Tanzania, talks about the wards she gained experience in:
‘I spent time in the paediatric ICU, the premature baby unit, and the labour ward. In the paediatric ICU and premature baby unit I administered medication, performed assessments, took vital signs, and helped the nurses and doctors with various procedures. Importantly, I helped treat patients who had illnesses not typically seen at home, like malaria, meningitis, sepsis, and severe pneumonia.’
Madison’s placement gave her a breadth of experience through the diversity of departments she worked in and the cases she encountered. Gaining actual experience in areas you can progress into, spending time with specialists in these areas, helps you when making career decisions as you move forward.
Mental Health Nursing Elective Placement Ideas
The NHS outlines the responsibilities and characteristics you should aim to develop as a successful mental health nurse:
‘Your personality and communication skills are crucial components of being a mental health nurse. You’ll need a good knowledge of mental ill health theory and how to apply it in practice. You’ll be warm and engaging while showing real empathy with service users and their individual circumstances. This may include the social stigma of mental health which can be equally hard to overcome.’
With the right experience, you can excel yourself in all of the above characteristics.
A surefire way to become an outstanding mental health nurse is through experiencing the diversities in treatment and in perceptions of mental health conditions around the world.
Mental health is not a fully-integrated field in much of the developing world. You’ll see many treatments that are far from what you’re used to at home.
The experience will show you the challenges local specialists confront while challenging social and religious beliefs influencing local perceptions and stigmas surrounding mental health.
Sally, a mental health nursing student who travelled to Ghana, found that her placement delivered experiences that stayed with her long after she came home:
‘I learned so much about cultural sensitivity, religious values and had some eye-opening clinical experiences which will stay with me forever. I even had the opportunity to administer medication, take blood, and to witness how Ghanaian cultural and religious beliefs influence mental health service engagement.’
Joanne also travelled to the developing world for her mental health nursing placement. Below, she writes about some of the things she experienced:
‘During my time on the psychiatric ward, I was given the opportunity to observe ECT, take part in ward rounds, and interact with the patients. I was also fortunate to be taken by the housemaster to a rehabilitation centre that was 20km away. I even spent time with the psychologists and in outpatient clinics.’
Learning Disability Nursing Elective Placement Ideas
Working with patients who have learning disabilities can be incredibly rewarding. Progress may be slow at times, but you’ll feel a deep satisfaction when a patient gains confidence or learns a new skill thanks to your involvement.
The NHS outlines the responsibilities and characteristics you should aim to possess as a learning disability nurse:
‘Learning disability nurses focus on managing their clients’ needs over a longer time, often having to be creative to achieve results. You’ll need patience and have highly-developed, flexible communication skills. The job can be stressful and demanding so self-awareness helps. You’ll sometimes need to be assertive to ensure people with a learning disability do not suffer discrimination. Sensitive human interaction is also a core skill.’
It’s almost impossible to embody all the above skills without real-world experience. So, let’s look at how an overseas nursing placement can set you on your way.
On a learning disability nursing placement in the developing world, you’ll spend time in a range of environments. For example, you can gain experience in local vocational schools, assisting with classroom based learning and therapies. This means everything from assisting the teachers in the classroom, to helping students learn hands-on vocational skills like dressmaking, weaving, and beading.
You’ll learn how to work through challenging situations, observing how local specialists succeed even while faced with extremely limited resources. You’ll also develop exceptional communication skills as you work with local specialists to get around language barriers. This will enable you to use techniques, like using body language, to communicate with patients.
Undertaking a placement in a developing country familiarises you with stepping out of your comfort zone — something you’ll be doing a lot of if you choose to undertake residential and community work once you’re qualified.
In fact, throughout your career as a learning disability nurse you could find yourself in all kinds of workplaces. Schools, residential and community centres, mental health trusts, palliative care wards, or with speech and language therapists. Getting to grips with an unfamiliar environment and watching yourself grow in confidence will empower you to assert the same positive attitude back home.
If you want to stand out in the working world, investing in an overseas nursing programme will give you the boost you need to get ahead. This is true for every branch of nursing.
You’ve read about the benefits of the clinical experience. Next, click here to learn about the breathtaking destinations you can choose from.
You can also check out our nursing elective page to learn how we will build a placement around your specific clinical interests.
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