Beginning to plan for my Medical Elective

meI’ve just begun my third year as a medical student at the University of Southampton.

After two years of lecture-based learning, this year will be spent on various placements in the Hampshire area including psychiatry, paediatrics, surgery, general medicine and obstetrics and gynaecology. Now’s the time to really get stuck in doing all the practical stuff and applying skills we’ve learnt over the past two years such as history taking and patient examination.

I’ve been on my psychiatry placement for five weeks so far and I’m finding it so interesting.  It’s great to be able to apply knowledge and skills to real patients in a medical setting.

After a whole year of working on different wards in various hospitals and medical centres I hope to have gained a huge insight into what life is like as a doctor in the UK. But one thing that I’m looking forward to most this year is experiencing medicine in a country with a healthcare system completely different to that found in the UK on my ‘elective’ next summer. An elective is a placement carried out in a field of medicine of your choice in any country and hospital.

Having the freedom to choose any country in the world to visit for my elective makes it extremely difficult to decide where to go and what to do! After much research and browsing Lonley Planet forums I’ve narrowed my options down and I’m focussing on the Caribbean.

The reasons behind my choices are:

  1. I need to go somewhere English-speaking (my only other languages are French A-level and Welsh GCSE where we didn’t cover anything medical related so I don’t think I’d have much luck trying to understand what’s going on in a foreign hospital!)
  2. I want to go far enough away from the UK that I can experience a completely different culture (and hopefully better weather alongside that!) but not so far that it’s a forty hour journey which would ultimately be much too expensive for a student like me!
  3. I want to go somewhere I’ve never been before. This eliminated Asia and Australasia where I travelled on my gap year in 2010.
  4. By process of elimination (North America is too culturally similar to the UK; South America and Central America’s main language is Spanish) I was left with Belize, the Caribbean and Africa. Many people choose to do their electives in Africa but at the moment my personal preference is leaning toward the Caribbean.

university logo copySo it’s all well and good having chosen a destination but then comes the problem of which Caribbean island to choose?! Grenada seemed like a great place to start with, its University town of St. Georges renowned for its medical and veterinary courses. However after writing to Grenada General Hospital I was disappointed to hear that they were not accepting elective students this year.

Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenedines, Curaçao, St. Lucia and Belize in Central America are all options I am considering at the moment. Wherever I end up going (even if it’s not one of these places!) I hope the experience will really open my eyes to how medicine is practised in a country less economically developed than the UK.  

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