How to plan your elective

Where to start...

Right here, right now! The Electives Network (or TEN for short) is one of the most comprehensive medical elective databases in existence, so our site is a good place to start. And we’re not just saying that because it’s our website, we have details of hundreds of hospitals and elective placements in more than 140 countries.

Our Country Profiles, Inspiration, and Planning tools are there to give you some ideas about where to go. And if you already know where you're going, search our database for existing student reports to get an idea of what to expect.

If you’re not sure a hospital placement is right for you then try the ‘Unique Electives’ section on the site which gives details about other types of electives. Think NASA, research institutes, prisons or mobile clinics as just some ideas.

How to apply

Early! Competition is extremely high, waiting lists can be long and communication can be slow in remote parts of the world. Many locations have formal application processes with strict windows to apply in. If you do not want to miss your dream placement, then you need to know in advance when that window will be, so you are ready with your application.
Apply to multiple placements so that you are guaranteed to have an elective in place. Even if you know you won’t be going until your final year, there’s nothing wrong in being prepared well in advanced so you can really make the most of your time.

Short and sweet

Make initial contact with a short letter and CV. If possible, write in the recipient’s language. Google Translate is a useful translation tool although be aware it probably won’t be a perfect match. Keep your text clear and to the point, preferably less than one side of A4, covering the following points:

  • The dates of your elective
  • What you want to get out of your time
  • What stage of training you are at
  • Where you are studying
  • How you heard about the placement
  • Highlight all your contact details including email
  • Enclose formal proof of your status as a medical student

Replies may be slow but persevere. Follow up with an email if necessary but keep any attachments to a minimum file size. We normally suggest giving the hospital at least six weeks to reply before following up.

Dr Who?

Check the hospital website for a contact name and formal elective application process. This may involve a form of payment, unfortunately at TEN we can't promise that there are no application or admin fees for every hospital. However, we do know that many hospitals we have listed do not require one. So, if money is an issue, then limit the number of applications you do that require a fee and if you are really struggling to find that perfect place without paying a fee then contact our team and we will be happy to help you.  

If the hospital has no specific application process, take a look at our regularly updated hospital database. If no specific contact name is known, we suggest you address correspondence to either 'The Medical Superintendent' (for hospitals in the developing world), the Electives Coordinator (for most medical schools) or the Chief Medical Officer (Australia/NZ hospitals).

Congratulations - you’re in, but what happens now?

Plans become reality. First things first, do you have clear written confirmation of your elective placement?  We’ve heard several stories of students confirming their placements over the phone and then arriving to find the hospital is not expecting them.

In the weeks before departure, it’s worth re-confirming your arrival with the hospital. Electives do fall through from time-to-time. Don’t panic. Have a back-up in mind and if something like this happens, let us know and we can help.