Medical Electives

Electives are typically undertaken in the final year of medical school. They usually act as the final SSC (student selected component) of your degree and are around 8 weeks long.

Choosing Your Elective

Whilst some schools are happy for you to sun yourself in Barbados with only a reflective essay required on return, others are looking for you to undertake full time clinical work with or without research projects. Check what your school requires before you start shopping for your bikini and sunhat. 


Electives can be used to tick the 'commitment to specialty' box for later job applications if you undertake an elective in the specialty you apply to work in, but matching your elective to your job plans isn't a necessity. You could also use your elective to explore areas of interest or gain additional experience in something that will be useful to you in the future but not necessarily something you want to work in. 


Consider where you want to be for your elective. Whilst the traditional view is of jetting off to the sun, more and more students are realising that five or six years at university has not left the healthiest of bank accounts to allow for this. The flip side of this is that you're really close to earning a salary, so putting it all on an interest free credit card might not be the worst idea if it allows you to do what you want to do. 


The degree of formality of applying for an elective varies massively between places. Start with an email to enquire, and go from there - some will simply say 'yes' and then expect to see you on the date you mentioned, whilst others will expect half a forest of paperwork before confirming your place. 

If the savings account is looking a little thin and the idea of borrowing money doesn't appeal, your elective dreams aren't quite over yet. Many organisations offer bursaries or grants to fund elective travel, often with the mere requirement that you do a presentation or report for them on return. Most awards are specific to either a specialty or geographical location, and may have conditions such as you being from a specific area, at a certain medical school, or from a particular background. Check these out early, as deadlines are often many months before your elective begins. Your medical school will probably have a list of organisations that have previously donated money to their students, as well as possibly running their own elective funding scheme. 

The boring stuff

Make sure you have insurance and indemnity cover 
This applies even if you're staying in the UK, as your medical defence cover usually only applies to you at your medical school. If you're a member of the Medical Defense Union (MDU), you can apply for free indemnity cover via their website, though they cannot cover electives to Australia. 
Check well in advance if these will be required. Your hospital can often advise on whether you can get away with a tourist visa or need a work permit. 
Consider your safety 
Whilst an elective in the Middle East right now might provide an interesting mix of emergency medicine and humanitarian issues, anywhere on the Foreign Office's list of dangerous places to travel to is not going to be approved by your medical school and travel insurance will be a nightmare to obtain. If you're going on elective alone, look into the reputation of your destination for lone traveller safety, especially if you're female. 
You'll need to organise accommodation and travel 
Your elective hospital may have accommodation, but many students going abroad, especially to big tourist destinations like Aus & NZ, often book into a hostel and then find short-term lets with people they meet out there. Flights can often be cheaper via a student travel agent such as STA Travel. 

UK Electives

UK electives can be a great chance to check out somewhere you might like to work after graduation, save money by staying home, or explore a speciality your own medical school doesn’t expose you to. In the case of students from abroad, this can be an ideal opportunity to find out what the UK NHS is really like. 

Most hospitals connected to medical schools will have formal methods of organising an elective, via a specific coordinator. Web links for some UK medical school electives are listed below. Places at these schools can fill up well in advance. You don't need to go via a medical school, however, as many hospital trusts will accept students directly. If you aren't going via a school though, you might find that you can't access their resources (library, computers, etc) whilst you're there.

Aberdeen University

Electives can only be undertaken within July & August in Aberdeen, or May to August in Inverness. Only overseas students within the EU are accepted to Inverness. 
Contact for queries: Aberdeen - [1] [email protected] Inverness - [email protected]
Elective period: 4 – 8 weeks
Application fee: Aberdeen - £150, returned if a placement cannot be offered to you. Inverness - £120
Hospitals available: Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Royal Aberdeen Childrens Hospital, Aberdeen Maternity Hospital, Cornhill Hospital, Raigmore Hospital
Specialties available: Not all specialties are available in both Aberdeen and Inverness. 
Surgical: A&E, Anaesthetics, Neurosurgery, Obs & Gynae, Orthopaedics, Plastics, General Surgery
Medical: Cardiology, Diabetes & Endocrine, Forensic Medicine, Gastroenterology, GP, Haematology, ID, General Med, Geriatrics, Mental Health, Neurology, Oncology, Paediatrics, Radiology, Renal, Rheumatology
Details: website 

Barts & The London

BL accept applications within only 3 short periods a year, in March, July & November. Each period corresponds to an elective period approximately 6 months after application, with a minimum of four months required between completed application forms and the start of your placement. You need to specify two specialties on your application but will only undertake a placement in one specialty. 
Contact for queries: [email protected]
Elective period: 2 – 8 weeks
Application fee: £200 – Not refundable if your application is unsuccessful. 
Specialties available: 
Surgical: General Surgery, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Trauma Surgery, Orthopaedics and Trauma, Neurosurgery, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Anaesthetics
Medical: Cardiology, Gastroenterology, Renal Medicine, Neurology, Paediatrics, Diabetes A&E is under a separate application process. If you wish to do an elective with HEMS, contact [2].
Details: website 

Bristol University

Applications are made directly to the relevant ‘academy’ of the school. 
Elective period: 4 to 8 weeks
Application fee: £100 
Hospitals available: 
Southmead & Frenchay – Contact: [3]
Weston-Super-Mare (UK students only) – Contact: [4]
Swindon General Hospital – Contact: [5]
Royal United Hospital Bath (June to Aug, only 2-3 places available) – Contact: [email protected]
Details: website

University of Cambridge (Addenbrookes Hospital)

Contact for queries: Individual correspondance is only possible after receipt of a completed application form.
Elective period: 6 week, fixed dates set by the school.
Application fee: £250, payable once elective placement is offered to you.
Accomodation fee: £970 for duration of placement.
Specialties available: 
Surgical: A&E, ENT, Breast, Colorectal, Transplant, Upper GI, Vascular, Urology, Neuroanaesthesia, Obs & Gynae, Orthopaedics.
Medical: Cardiorespiratory, Dermatology, Elderly Care, Endocrinology, Gastroenterology, ID, Nephrology, General Medicine, Haematology, Oncology, Paediatrics, Psychiatry, Radiology, Rheumatology.
Details: website

Cardiff University & South Wales

Contact for queries: [email protected]
Elective period: up to 8 weeks.
Hospitals available: Barry Hospital, Cardiff Royal Infirmary West Wing, Children’s Hospital for Wales, University Hospital Llandough, Rookwood Hospital, St. David’s Hospital, University Dental Hospital, University Hospital of Wales, and Whitchurch Hospital.
Specialties available: General medical & surgical specialities, plus paediatric intensive care, specialist children's services, renal services, cardiac services, neurology, bone marrow transplantation and medical genetics.
Details: website

Dundee University

Contact for queries: [email protected]
Elective period: Up to 8 weeks
Application fee: £200 on offer of an elective place 
Hospitals available: Ninewells
Specialties available: 
Surgical: A&E, Anaesthetics, Neurosurgery, Orthopaedics, Plastics, General Surgery, Urology
Medical: Cardiology, Diabetes & Endocrine, Gastroenterology, GP, Haematology, ID, Geriatrics, Mental Health, Neurology, Oncology, Paediatrics, Renal, Radiology, Rheumatology
Details: website

Edinburgh University

The University administer electives for Edinburgh, Livingstone & Fort William. 
Applications should be received at least six to eight months in advance. Applications for General Medicine, General Surgery, Paediatrics and Emergency Medicine should be submitted 12 to 24 months in advance. 
Contact for queries: [email protected]
Elective period: 4 weeks
Application fee: £100
Hospitals available:
Astley Ainslie Hospital – Rehabiliation Medicine
Liberton Hospital – Care of the Elderly
Medical School – Forenic Medicine, Pathology
Princess Alexandra Eye – Opthalmology
Royal Hospital for Sick Children – Paediatrics
Royal Infirmary

  • Surgical: Anaesthetics, Orthopaedics, Transplant Surgery
  • Medical: Cardiology, Endocrinology, Gastroenterology, ICU, Radiology, Medicine, Renal

St Johns (Livingstone)

  • Surgical: A&E, Plastics
  • Medical: Paediatrics, Cardiology, General Med

Western General

  • Medical: Cardiology, Endocrinology, Haematology, ID, Geriatrics, Oncology, Radiology, Rheumatology

Belford (Fort William) – Remote & Rural A&E, Medicine, Surgery
Details: website

Glasgow University

Applications should be submitted between 4 and 12 months in advance. 
Contact for queries: [email protected]
Elective period: Maximum 6 weeks. 
Application fee: £100 – nonrefundable. 
Specialties available:
Surgical: A&E, Anaesthesia, Neurosurgery, Obs & Gynae, Ophthalmology, Orthopaedics, ENT, Plastics, Surgery, Urology.
Medical: Paediatrics, Dermatology, Radiology, Geriatrics, Haematology, Homeopathy, Nutrition, ID, Medicine, Cardiology, Neurology, Oncology, Pathology, Renal, Rheumatology.
Psychiatry: General, Child & Adolescent, Forensic, Learning Disabilities, Old Age, Psychotherapy, Liason, Substance Misuse. 
Details: website

Keele University

Applications should be received 3-6 months before your elective placement. 
Elective period: 4 – 8 weeks
Hospitals available: 
UHNS – Contact: [email protected]
Shrewsbury & Telford – Contact: [email protected]
Stafford – Contact: [email protected]
Details: Website

King's College London

KCL accept applications from May – June for electives between September and January, and another period of application runs later in the year for electives between February and May. They oversee electives at Kings College Hospital, Guy’s Hospital, St Thomas’ Hospital, and University Hospital Lewisham, as well as placements at the Institute of Psychiatry. You may only apply for one placement.
Contact for queries:' [email protected]
Elective period: 4-8 weeks. 
Application fee: £100 – nonrefundable. 
Placement fee: £200-400 (minimum £200 for 4 weeks, plus £50/week for up to 4 further weeks).
Specialties available: Not all specialties available at all times.
Surgical: A&E, Anaesthesia, Breast, Cardiac, Thoracics, General Surgery, GI Surgery, Neurosurgery, Obs & Gynae, Ophthalmology, Orthopaedics & Trauma, Plastics, Urology, Renal Transplant, Vascular. 
Medical: Acute & elderly, Ageing & health, Oncology, Cardiology, Cardiovascular medicine, Critical Care, Dermatology, Endocrinology, Gastroenterology, General Medicine, Rheumatology, Haematology, Neonatology, Neuropsychiatry, Palliative Care, Radiology, Rehab Medicine, Renal, Sexual Health & HIV. 
Clinical Sciences: Clinical Chemistry, Clinical Pharmacology, Clinical Toxicology, Inherited Metabolic Disorders, Histopathology, Institute of Liver Studies, Lupus Unit, Research Oncology.
Paediatrics: Cardiology, ITU, Nephrology, Neurology, Surgery, Haemoglobinopathes, ID.
Psychiatry: Child & Adolescent, Old Age, Community, General, Clinical Neuroscience, Liason, Social Genetic & Developmental, Psychotherapy, Addictions, Forensic.
Details: website

Imperial College London

Applications are coordinated by each individual hospital. No placements are possible between 1st Dec & 15th Jan in any year. Applications must be received at least 8 weeks before your placement (12 weeks if a visa is required). 
Elective period: Maximum 6 weeks.
Application fee: Up to £150 (depends on hospital)
Hospitals available: 
Chelsea & Westminster - Contact: [email protected]
Hillingdon (June - Aug only) – Contact: [email protected]
Charing Cross – Contact: [email protected]
Hammersmith – Contact: [email protected]
St Marys – Contact: [email protected]
Western Eye – Contact: [email protected]
Central Middlesex – Contact: [email protected]
Northwick Park – Contact: [email protected]
Royal Brompton & Harefield – not currently taking elective students. 
Details: website

Liverpool University

The application process should take 1-3 months if you are a Home/EU student. If you require a visa to study in the UK, your application will take 3-6 months. A special arrangement is in place for students from NUS (Singapore), where a mutual exchange between the universities means no fees are payable. 
Contact for queries: [email protected]
Elective period: 2 -4 weeks (6 weeks permitted in special circumstances).
Application fee: £150 – nonrefundable. 
Specialties available: 
Surgical: A&E, Urology, Breast & Endocrine, Vascular, ENT, Transplant, Colorectal, General Surgery, Ophthalmology, Orthopaedics.
Medical: Respiratory, Gastroenterology, ID, Cardiology, Diabetes, Endocrinology, Radiology, Haematology, Clinical Biochemistry, Nephrology.
Details: website

Newcastle University – Hospitals in the Newcastle region

Applications should be received at least six months before your placement. Students are strongly encouraged to make direct contact with a clinical consultant to organise your elective before submitting an application to the university. Electives are not permitted between September and December. 
Contact for queries: [email protected]
Elective period: 3 – 8 weeks. 
Elective fee: £75, payable on the start of your placement. 
Hospitals available:
Specialties available:
Details: website

Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital

Contact for queries:[email protected]
Elective period: Up to 8 weeks.
Application fee: £50 paid on the first day of your placement.
Hospitals available: NNUH
Specialties available: Not given, but the following is list of NNUH departments. Students are asked to suggest two specialties in their application email. 
Surgical: A&E, Anaesthetics, Breast, ENT, Ophthalmology, General Surgery, Obs & Gynae, Orthopaedics, Plastics, Thoracics, Urology, Vascular. 
Medical: Cardiology, Critical Care, Dermatology, Diabetes, Gastroenterology, Neurology, Geriatrics, Oncology, Radiology, Renal, Respiratory, Rheumatology, Stroke.
Details: pdf

Oxford University

Applications are considered over a year in advance. All places up to August 2014 are currently full. The deadline for consideration for Sep 2014 – August 2015 has passed (June 2013). Only 50 elective places are available. Many elective periods are organised in conjunction with Oxford Medical School and involve teaching alongside their students. 
Contact for queries: [email protected] 
Elective period: 4-10 weeks (variable depending on specialty).
Elective fee: None.
Hospitals available: John Radcliffe Hospital, the Churchill Hospital, the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre (NOC) and the Horton General Hospital in Banbury. Psychiatry is at Warneford and Park Hospitals.
Specialties available:
Surgical: Anaesthetics (4 or 8 weeks), Emergency Medicine – you should come from a country in which Emergency Medicine is not a recognised specialty e.g. Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Indian sub-continent, Neurosurgery (4 weeks), Obs & Gynae (8 weeks), Orthopaedic Surgery (including A&E and Rheumatology) (8 weeks), Surgery - Colorectal, Upper GI, Hepatobiliary, Breast, Endocrine, Vascular, Transplant Surgery, Urology and Cardiac Surgery. (up to 8 weeks) – specify subspecialty on application, Ophthalmology (up to 10 weeks), ENT (4 weeks), Plastics – priority to students from abroad (4 to 6 weeks), Urology (4 weeks).
Medical: Cardiovascular (4 to 8 weeks), Geriatrics (4 to 10 weeks), Neurology (4 to 8 weeks, no availability in June), Haematology (4 weeks), Infectious Diseases (4 weeks), ICU (4 or 8 weeks), Acute General Med (up to 8 weeks), Oncology (up to 10 weeks), Paediatrics (8 weeks), Palliative Care (4 , Rheumatology (4 to 8 weeks).
Clinical Sciences: Clinical Genetics (4, 6, 8 or 10 weeks), Immunology (4 weeks), Neuroradiology (4 weeks). 
Details: website

Plymouth Hospitals

Placements are no longer available for 2013. Elective placements are available in July & August only and applications for 2014 should be received by March. 
Contact for queries: [email protected]
Elective period: Up to 4 weeks.
Application fee: £100 on accepting your offer.
Elective fee: £75 per week (minus the £100 already paid)
Hospitals available: 
Specialties available: 
Surgical: Cardiothoracics (4 weeks), ENT (4 weeks), Obs & Gynae (4 weeks), Plastics (2-4 weeks), A&E (2-4 weeks) 
Medical: Oncology (2 weeks), Care of the Elderly (2-4 weeks), Neurology (4 weeks) 

University College London

Applications are due approximately six months before placement. Elective periods are organised into 7 blocks within the year, and each has a specific application deadline. As of July 2013, the next available placement is March 2014.
Contact for queries: [email protected]
Elective period: 4-8 weeks. Your start & end dates must fall within the blocks designated by the school. No electives may begin in September. 
Application fee: £100 – nonrefundable.
Registration fee: £250
Elective fees: £300 for 4 weeks, plus £75 for every additional week. 
Hospitals available: UCLH, The Heart Hospital, The Whittington, The Royal Free.
Specialties available: 
Surgical: A&E, Anaesthetics, ENT, General Surgery, Obs & Gynae, Ophthalmology, Orthopaedics, Breast, Colorectal, Maxfax, Plastics, Vascular, Gynae Oncology, Urology. 
Medical: Acute, Cardiology, Endocrinology, Gastroenterology, Haematology, ID, ICU, Medicine, Nephrology, Paediatrics, Psychiatry, Rheumatology.
Neurology placements are organised separately to the School of Medicine, contact [email protected]

Details: website

Electives Abroad

Child Family Health International

Child Family Health International (CFHI) provides ethical, community-based Global Health Education Programs for students and institutions. CFHI's expertise is in preserving the authenticity of the community's expertise and presenting 'real-life' global health, while nesting programs in gold-standard educational pedagogies and safety standards. 
Program fees include online pre-departure course, airport pick-up upon arrival, Spanish classes in Latin American settings, accommodation and meals, local cell phone, 24/7 emergency response, and international emergency medical and evacuation insurance. 

Website: Child Family Health International

Work the World

Highly structured & individually tailored overseas medical elective placements. Gain experience treating rare disease and advanced pathologies in Africa, Asia and South America. 
Pre-departure preparation, full placement organisation, meals and accommodation in the Work the World houses and 24/7 in-country support are included.

Website: Work the World

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