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Top 10 safety tips before you go on your Elective

By Wesleyan

Your Elective will most likely be one of the highlights of your time at medical school. It’s your chance to immerse yourself in a new culture and to experience how medical professionals work outside the UK. However, spending time far away from home, in a country that may not be as developed as the UK, can also pose a number of risks. That’s why it’s crucial to find out more about your destination and take some precautions before you go. Here are a few simple tips to help keep you safe.

1. Arrange Elective insurance
As you’ll be working in a hospital while you’re abroad, it’s vital to take out specialist Elective insurance to cover you while you’re away. A general travel insurance policy will not provide cover for your work at a medical institution. Elective insurance from Wesleyan includes cover for needle-stick injury and exposure to biological fluids, for example.

2. Research your destination
Before you commit yourself to taking up a placement, it’s a good idea to research your destination country thoroughly and investigate any potential risks. Check the Foreign Office website for information on the current situation, including threats such as terrorism or political unrest, crime, diseases, and travel restrictions. As part of Wesleyan’s Elective insurance, the Enjoy Concierge Service can help with planning your trip and providing valuable health and travel information.

3. Get your vaccination records in order
If you fall ill or have an accident in a resource poor country, vaccines may not always be readily available in an emergency. That’s why it’s particularly important to ensure your vaccination records are up-to-date before you go.  In some countries, vaccination records are even a pre-requirement to process your visa application, so book an appointment with your doctor or nurse at least eight weeks before your departure. You can find general information on vaccinations for different travel destinations at and your host institution should be able to inform you about any additional requirements.

4. Share your contact details
Leave a copy of your contact details and itinerary with family, friends and your university before you go, in case the need to get hold of you in an emergency. Also include contact details for the hospital you will be working at and your supervisor at the host institution.

5. Scan your passport
It can also be useful to scan your passport and email it to yourself or send a copy to a friend for safekeeping. If your passport is lost or stolen while you’re away, this can speed up the process of getting you a replacement.

6. Make a list of emergency numbers
Make a list of important telephone numbers and contact details, so you have them immediately to hand if you need them. Useful information to include are telephone numbers of fire and emergency services in your host country, the closest embassy and 24-hour emergency numbers for your insurance company and your credit card provider.

7. Get written confirmation from your host institution
The Electives Network warns that some unscrupulous hospitals may place more importance on the revenue they receive from student fees than on the Elective experience provided. Ensure you get written confirmation before you go on who your supervisor will be, which role or department you’ll be working in, how many other students you’ll be working with, and where your fees will go.

8. Pack a first aid kit medications
It’s vital to take a first aid kit with you and to ensure you’ve got supplies of any medicines you normally take. Check beforehand if it’s legal to import these, as inhalers and other over-the-counter medicines are banned in certain countries. It’s advisable to carry a letter from your doctor stating why medicine are required, which may help if you are stopped at customs.

9. Learn the local language
Even if English is understood in many parts of the world, you should not rely on the fact that everyone will be able to communicate with you, particularly if visiting remote, rural locations. Learning at least a few words in the local language or dialect can help build rapport with your hosts and patients and is also useful in case of emergencies. Pack a phrase book and note down translations for important medical conditions or medications you may need.

10. Download safety apps
There are many helpful apps for travellers that you can download to your phone before you leave, such as Isurviverescue or Travel Safe, which can send a message with your GPS location to selected contacts in an emergency at the touch of a button.

Find our more about Elective Travel Insurance.

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