Volunteering on an medical elective on your gap year in either medicine, physiotherapy or veterinary science is a fantastic way to gain experience in your chosen career path while travelling the world at the same time. You’ll also be making a really positive difference regardless of where you volunteer, whether it’s at a veterinary surgery in Mongolia or at a hospital in India.
If you volunteer on a medical elective it’ll also look great on your CV, pushing you above the crowd in what is a competitive job market.
Have a look through these pages and find out about the types of medical projects you can work on and the different ways in which you can help, and then feel free to have a browse of the extensive medical internships and jobs we currently feature.
Where to volunteer on a medical elective
There are countries all over the world which provide opportunities for you to volunteer on a medical elective, and they are often in the developing world. To work in impoverished environments will not only offer you a real challenge, but also expand your knowledge and ability to remain calm in highly stressful environments.
Most medial projects in Cambodia are based in Phnom Penh, which is the capital, and the hospitals you will be volunteering in have minimal resources and staff as a result of a lack of funds. Much of the equipment that you’ll have been trained to use on your course back home thus far will be absent, meaning you’ll have to be willing to adapt to the new ways of working. Medical electives in Cambodia are usually designed for students who are aiming to become doctors and nurses, and as such you’ll usually be given the opportunity to shadow and assist local doctors and nurses, including in theatre, in Cambodia.
Volunteering on a medical elective in India will be an experience you’ll never forget. This is a country infamous for high levels of poverty, and you’ll be faced with some truly challenging situations, both emotionally and practically speaking. One important thing to keep in mind is that medical care in India is not paid for by the government, and as many people can’t afford to pay for themselves, by the time they take themselves to a doctor whatever medical condition they have will be extremely advanced. Many medical projects in India are based in the state of Kerala, famed for its beautiful beaches and tropical climate. You will have the opportunity to shadow doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals in hospitals and learn about all manner of medicinal disciplines.
China can be a fascinating place to volunteer on a medical elective because its healthcare system uses a mixture of Western medicine and traditional Eastern techniques to treat people. Because of this there is a certain holisticism in the approach to curing people, which as both a Western observer and student can really benefit you and the patients you treat throughout your career. You’ll likely be placed in a large hospital in somewhere like Beijing, and you won’t necessarily need to have had previous medical experience.
Similarly to China, volunteering on a medical elective in Tanzania can be a captivatingly interesting experience because traditional medical techniques are practised alongside more modern ways of doing things. In fact, the traditional side is taken so seriously there is major research being undertaken into areas where it is found to be effective. Volunteering on a medical project in Tanzania will expose you to some challenging environments as many of the population are poor and in seriously ill health because medical care doesn’t come for free.