Here you'll find a selection of experiences that LMSS members have had with their electives.
Remember, we are always looking for contributors to this section in the form of their own personal trip reports. If you would like to regale us with tales of your own elective, please get in touch.
The Caribbean - Saint Vincent
Student - Ross Wallace
Hospital - Milton Cato Memorial Hospital
Contact - Ross Wallace
Cost - £3,500
Educational Rating - 6/10
Entertainment Rating - 8/10
Myself and my three housemates spent our elective in an Island called Saint Vincent. Unlike some of the other islands in the Caribbean, Saint Vincent is not as westernised as say Barbados or Saint Lucia for example. Some people may like this but some may find it a bit annoying. It took us a while to find suitable local supermarkets to buy food so we were not eating out every night. Although things are very cheap there and the food was pretty good so eating out was something we did more often.
If you want a more relaxed elective, admittedly this is for you. The hospital has a wide range of things for you to see, me personally doing O&G, general medicine and orthopaedic surgery. There are also opportunities for spending time in A&E which is useful for someone just finishing third year because it gives you the confidence clinically when you enter fourth year.
From a recreational point of view it is GREAT! The weather is amazing, although it is rainy season. This means it rains pretty much every day but only for about 5 minutes and then it is amazing again. The carnival is on during the elective. This is 2 weeks where the people of the island party non-stop and is amazing! We met some other students in the hospital and did lots of stuff with them including climbing the volcano, visiting the waterfalls and visiting the set of Pirates of the Caribbean. The holiday culminated in a yacht trip where we went island hopping, saw some paradise islands and went swimming with sea turtles. If you want any more information just email me and I will answer your questions or meet up and chat with you about it.
*Please note that a decent level of Spanish is required for this elective as it is the native tongue in Cuba*
Student - James Riley
Cost - £2,000
Cuba is famed for Communism, Castro and cigars, but how does it fare for a medical elective I hear you cry? Well, absolutely amazing is my answer. For a start, its slap bang in the middle of the Caribbean, and that means it’s permanently hot, there’s more white sand and clear blue beaches than you can shake a stick at, and yes, rum is always flowing, regardless of the time of day. Add to this the ‘free for all’ health-care system Cuba is famed for, and you couldn’t get a better elective destination.
I did my elective in a small city outside Havana called Cienfuegos. It wasn’t very touristy, and small enough that by the end I was pretty well known around town. Work wise I was in 4 days a week, mornings only. It’s too hot in the afternoons to work apparently, but I’m not about to argue with that sentiment. I got to do pretty much whatever I liked, spending a week in ER on majors, handling whatever came in through the door, then spent the remaining 3 weeks doing surgical specialties, getting scrubbed in and stuck in at the business end of things. Ample opportunity to get involved and practise some medicine, but not too busy or strict on how often you had to be in.
Cuba was an awesome destination, picture America in the 50’s and add in a healthy dose of Communist quirks and you’re pretty much there. There was loads to do at the weekends, with trips away to waterfalls, paradise beaches, cigar plantations and visiting other cities meant I got to visit a lot of the country, and all from the comfort of a classy hired 1950’s Chevy, which broke down more times than I care to remember. There was only one drawback, the food. It was, and I’m not exaggerating here, diabolical: rice, beans and pork for every meal, every day. Awful! So how does Cuba fare for an elective destination? Brilliantly, I’d recommend it to anyone!
Student – Oliver Hughes
Hospital – Johannesburg General Hospital
Contact - Dawn.Francis@wits.ac.za
Cost - £2500
Educational Rating – As high or low as you want it to be.
Entertainment Rating – 8/10
Johannesburg might be a place that scares a few people (especially if you watched Ross Kemp on Gangs or Louis Theroux in Johannesburg), and it should do. The place is terrifying. But don’t let it put you off. It’s a massive city with loads of touristy and some less touristy stuff to do. As long as you’re sensible in the way you get around you shouldn’t have any problems. As it’ll be the South African winter, and Jo’burg is high up in the mountains, it is far from hot. The mornings will be incredibly cold but it should warm up in the afternoons before going dark by 6.
In terms of the hospital work, it was unbeatable. Despite the hospitals being famed for their A&E opportunities, I spent my time on the plastics and reconstructive surgery ward. Here I was able to go to ward rounds, outpatient clinics, MDT meetings and, best of all, theatre. We were taught to perform various procedures and had plenty of chance to do them – from skin grafts to modified Kessler tendon repairs! Attendance was up to yourself (I went in everyday, obviously), but we were advised against the more academic days. If you’re dead set on doing surgery, this is most definitely for you.
As for entertainment, we had a few difficulties. Jo’burg is famous for its nights out (boasting the best in South Africa), which although possibly true, has stiff competition in Cape Town and Durban. The clubs were amazing, the food was cheap and very tasty, a safari is always near by, and you may even want to go to the apartheid museum or Soweto (though I can’t personally recommend these). The trouble came in getting to and from these places. Be prepared to feel as though you shouldn’t leave your room except for going to hospital and most people will tell you not to hire a car, or drive around a night, but as long as you’re a confident driver then it’s pretty handy. Find a ‘safe’ taxi company and you should also do well. The weekends for us came in the form of plane journeys to and from Cape Town and Durban (which you can get for about £60) which were also incredible. One of the best things about Jo’burg is that it’s so easy to get out…to travel up the map through Africa (also a must) and if this was included in the entertainment rating, the score of 8 would be multiplied by 100.
Student - Simon Fairweather
Hospital - Red Cross Children's
Contact - email@example.com
Cost - £3,500
Educational Rating - 10/10
Entertainment Rating - 7/10
So, I went to South Africa for mine. To those of you who may not know what SA is famous for it's the era of Apartheid. Not necessarily the most sterling of things to be renowned for, but it does add huge interest for tourism and the like. Red Cross was in Cape Town, the safest (in comparison) and most cosmopolitan city in SA, flocked to by millions of tourists each year. Despite it being their Winter, temps were always around 20oC and there were lots of sunny beach days to be had - amongst the occasional storm.
For learning opportunities it was sublime, I was literally left to consult and manage my own children - even being allowed to prescribe my choice of drug (inevitably amoxicillin, paracetamol or asthavent...). I was thrown into the deep end of hands on experience, countless examinations, bloods and even lumbar punctures became the norm in an average day. The bad thing was that I was in from 8am until 5pm Monday to Friday, with a high attendance level expected.
Entertainment was great too, eating out was as cheap as cooking for yourself and there were many cheap bars to satisfy your thirst. Renting a car was perhaps necessary as it meant added safety and saved a lot on taxis as theirs were quite overpriced. Many tourist attractions such as table mountain, cape point and the garden route were all within a hour or so drive so your weekend will never be a boring sit in affair. The reason I gave the rating as a 7 was because as I was in hospital all day every day, I didn't quite get the opportunity to explore the area as I might have hoped.
Student – Sarah Rathe
Cost - £4000
Educational Rating – As high or low as you want it to be.
Entertainment Rating – 8/10
I split my elective between two locations within the country of United Republic of Tanzania and the island of Zanzibar.
For 3 weeks I worked in Mount Meru District Regional hospital outside Arusha, which provided subsidised treatments for the regions poor farming communities, and the local Maasi tribes-people.
I did my placement on the medical wards, where i seen a variety of patients suffering from malaria, pneumonia, hypertension, HIV and asthma.
I also spent time in the minor theatre, which acted as a local accident and emergency department; where I participated in interpreting x-rays, applying plaster of paris to fractures, suturing, applying dressings and observing procedures.
For the following 2 weeks I worked in Mnazi Mmoja hospital in Stone Town, Zanzibar, specialising in obstetrics and gynaecology. It is the main referring hospital for Zanzibar. The labour ward delivers up to 20 babies a day. No pain relief is available to mothers during labour and delivery for cultural reasons.
After elective I travelled around Zanzibar attending a full moon party, went snorkelling, and also went on a camping safari for 4 days in the Serengeti, lake manyara and Ngorongoro, which was one of the best experiences in my life.
I found the locals extremely interesting and friendly wherever I went, and the food was amazing.
Apart from the initial cost of arranging the hospitals and flights, accomodation and living costs were incredibly low. I'd recommend Tanzania to anyone.
if you have any questions email me at firstname.lastname@example.orgStudent - Jess Macwilliam
Contact - Jess
For those of you who are:
• Too poor to finance a trip abroad
• Not up for the idea of getting dysentery in a foreign country
• Not a fan of foreign travel
• All of the above
Then an elective in the UK might be for you.
I know it sounds a tad boring but trust me get it right and you can have a fantastic time whilst getting a realistic idea about what life as a junior doctor in the UK is actually all about. My elective was nothing like the hospital placements I have had here in Liverpool. I got the opportunity to work closely as part of a team and to carry out an audit that was actually of benefit to the hospital where I was placed. On top of this I received a HUGE amount of teaching and exposure to various clinical presentations of paediatric neurological conditions (that was the area where I wanted to spend my time).
Also just because you do your elective in the UK doesn’t mean you can’t go on a holiday or go travelling after you have finished, in fact if you can only afford 5 weeks abroad surely it’s better to go after the elective and doing exactly what you want rather than having to spend at least a bit of your time in hospital!!!
So there you have it my pitch for doing an elective in the UK. I know I still won’t have convinced many of you but for those of you who have still not decided then give it some thought. I had a fantastic time and I don’t regret not going abroad for a second!