1) Too many destination options
The Medical Electives Network alone provides you with over 3,500 clinics and hospitals to choose from. Decisions, decisions, decisions. Filtering the options by continent and country is a nice start. Some students have their hearts set on a particular country – but the more indecisive of us may well wish we could take this kind of approach below…
2) Too many languages…that I don’t speak
Choice of elective destination is, of course, often restricted by language barriers. While UK students enjoy the benefit of a large proportion of the world speaking English, many countries that would make very appealing electives will require other languages! Spanish is pretty useful, but it won’t get you far in Cambodia.
3) Too many specialties…that are already full
You may well have found a hospital in your favourite location that will take you, but if you’re an aspiring plastic surgeon of the left thumb, good luck finding such an elective. Also, if all the Emergency Medicine places haven’t already gone, they’re probably about to – so getting in early is key.
4) Too much financial pain than ever before experienced
As if funding the previous 4 years of university wasn’t already a nightmare, paying for a medical elective is almost always totally eye-watering. The bank is likely to get broken so learning to love marmite on toast (ideally 3 meals a day) will probably come in handy.
5) Too many bursaries available for every type of elective…except yours
Especially if planning an elective to a developed country, finding sponsorship for your particular elective can be incredibly difficult. There are so many organisations out there that generously offer cash to make medical electives possible – but naturally, your choice of elective often makes you ineligible for most of them.
6) Too many friends wanting to go everywhere ELSE
If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to go on your elective with friends. The only problem is that everyone has their own idea of where will make the ideal elective – and even if you do get a consensus, getting accepted by hospitals in the same part of the world often proves a real pain. The prospect of going somewhere far from home alone with people you’ve never met can be incredibly daunting – so a compromise may need to be reached to cater for people’s tastes and opportunities.
7) And among the friends who do want to go to the same place: too many budgets!
This is a classic group travel issue: there will always be someone in the group that just happens to have a small fortune stowed away in savings for occasions such as this…while others are keen to watch the pennies as use of overdraft is less than ideal.
8) Too many times I need to be stabbed with a needle this month
Vaccinations also need to be factored in: money-wise, pain-wise and time-wise. This probably isn’t the sort of thing that immediately comes to mind when you plan your elective – so it’s the kind of thing you may only remember when it’s too late. Get all the vaccinations in on time and it will save a lot of health worries when you’re out there: there are very few people on earth that can ‘analyse’ (i.e. worry about) their health to the same detail as medical students.
9) Too many forms
The host hospital, the indemnity provider, the medical school, the sponsor, the insurance company, the immigration department, the travel agents and the airline will all probably require you to fill out a form the size of ‘War and Peace’.
10. Eventually your Fairy Godmother may arrive to give you a helping hand…
Despite the challenges, don’t give up! Keep on trying and it will pan out somehow. Something somewhere will come good for you eventually and you’ll be able to go on your elective after all…