Knowing when to say “no” on the student elective

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.316.7142.1404 (Published 09 May 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1404

Students going on electives abroad need clinical guidelines

  1. Nicholas Banatvala, Medical adviser,
  2. Len Doyal, Professor
  1. Medical Emergency Relief International, London W1M 1HW
  2. Department of Medical Ethics, St Bartholomew's and the Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London, E1 4NS

    Personal view p 1466

    The elective can be one of the most exciting components of a medical student's training. When done abroad, it sometimes offers the opportunity to experience health care in a different cultural and organisational setting and to see diseases that are rarely, if ever, encountered in Great Britain. Other benefits include the maturity that comes from medico-social understanding, self-reliance, and resourcefulness that the elective experience can provide.1 Several reports describing activities on electives provide further insight into their opportunities, challenges, and benefits.2-6

    The increasingly focused medical curriculum in the UK is a key reason to promote the elective. Yet despite its advantages, some concerns remain. The author of a report of his elective alludes to the discomfort felt about suddenly being expected to “see patients” (p 1466).6 Such concerns are often no different from anxieties experienced by medical students in Great Britain. …

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