Undertaking an elective in IR is a great way to provide you with exposure to the specialty. By immersing yourself for a few weeks, you really get a feel for the range of work that IR does, develop your clinical and technical skills, and experience the great teaching culture of the specialty. Students tend to really like their IR rotations, and the majority rated the hands-on experience higher than electives in other procedural specialties (link).
Introduction to IR Electives
Where do I go?
This is a major consideration, and there is a balance to be had between cost, clinical experience and experiencing another culture. Take all of these factors into account and know what is important to you before choosing.
The UK. You don't have to travel far to have a great elective. Many centres in the UK have great IR departments who are willing to host elective students. Many hospitals have their own application process for visiting UK students, either through the linked university or the hospital themselves. Others simply need approval from the department & associated paperwork in order to host you. The best way to start would be to email the consultant lead(s) in a department and ask whether they accept students for an elective placement.
Europe. Many European countries have established interventional radiology units that offer fantastic medical student exposure. Although the language barrier means some people are put off, many medical institutions communicate in English. CIRSE have a list of medical student internships in interventional radiology which UK medical students are welcome to apply for (link).
The USA. IR has exploded in the US, and is now it's own clinical specialty. Many IR centres in the US already have their own clinics and have all the latest equipment and techniques. It is competitive and expensive, but has the potential to be an amazing experience! There are only a few institutions offer IR electives to international students, and they are very competitive. It is possible to organise a placement unofficially through contacts, but such placements can vary in quality - many often end up as observerships where you cannot gain hands-on experience.
Developing countries. IR is starting to gain traction in developing countries. An elective placement is a great way to see the field in a different light, and travel to countries with a very different culture. It may be the only time you get to experience healthcare in this setting!
How do I prepare?
Come prepared. It is great to know the background of each procedure. Even if it is just 5 minutes on your phone before entering the room, knowing a small amount of background makes the whole experience more fulfilling. Spend a few minutes meeting the patient beforehand and understand why the procedure is being done. You tend to learn things better when you tie it to patients you've seen. A great book is the Pocketbook of Clinical IR, which explains the most common procedures at a medical student level.
Show enthusiasm. IRs tend to love what they do. If you show enthusiasm, people usually respond to this and will be more willing to teach and let you scrub into the cases. Ask questions whenever you can. Ask if you can get stuck in & do parts of the procedure.
What funding is available?
RCR Elective Bursary. The Royal College of Radiologists can offer up to £300 to help with elective costs. Click here for more information.
Royal Society of Medicine Bursaries. There are a number of awards available from the RSM that can help pay for your elective. Click here for more information.
Where else can I find information?
Senior students. There will have been somebody in previous years who would have done an elective in IR. Most medical schools have an internal process where the experiences from previous placements are available to view.
Institutions websites. The institutions themselves sometimes have a page on their IR elective, outlining the experience & how to apply.
The electives network. A great starting point if you have no idea where to go, as they have reviews from a lot of different countries and hospitals.
SIR RFS. Elective rotations in IR have been around for a long time in the US, and the RFS have some great resources for medical students. Here is a great post with some top tips for your elective.
Elective reports on this site. We have reached out to past IR elective students to share accounts of their experiences and hope to publish some of these below soon.
IR Elective Opportunities
Here, we list some of the IR elective opportunities available for UK medical students to apply to. We have only included IR-specific ones, but many general radiology electives will include time in IR. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and some links may be out of date, so please double check everything. Some medical school have an exchange agreement with host institutions - it is worth checking whether yours has one, and whether they accept students for IR.
There are some fantastic IR departments in the UK who have previously hosted medical students for electives. We've kept a list of departments where students have rotated through & enjoyed it. Usually UK-based students just need an IR consultant to approve their placement with the department. International students may need formal application.
Many IR units offer formal elective placements for medical students. The USA/Canada have excellent elective programs but the application process is more complex and costly. Some European placements can be applied for through CIRSE - click here.
Many other countries offer electives, but may require contacting individual departments instead.
You can also experience IR in less developed healthcare systems! The main IR organisations working in developing countries are Road2IR and RAD-AID & many medical students have joined these programs as a volunteering/elective opportunity.
Alternatively, you can contact individual interventional radiologists for opportunities.
Past elective experiences
We have asked some of our juniors to tell us about their elective rotations. Read all about their experiences here.