Importance of Electives

Electives enable medical students to gain clinical experience.  Below are some tips for international medical graduates/Canadians studying abroad  from Dr. KT, a GP working as a locum in BC:

Electives are very important:

  • They will enable IMGs/CSAs to get a reference letter.
  • While competition for electives is high, they are more difficult to get in summer, so consider targeting other parts of the year.
  • There are limits to the number of IMGs accepted for electives.
  • Explore electives at every university across Canada and apply to as many as possible (cast a wide net).
  • Each university has different application deadlines, and different requirements.  Become familiar with the application deadline for each university.
  • Electives are eligible no matter where they are completed in Canada, so consider options in other provinces to expand your chances.
  • Seek at least three electives.
  • Focus electives on your area of interest.
  • Observerships do not carry the same weight as electives.
  • The process to find electives is time consuming and involves a lot of emailing and phone calling.

Dr. KT completed three electives (one in Nova Scotia and two in BC). This GP was born and raised in BC, attended medical school in Ireland, and completed residency in Toronto before returning to BC after two years of locum work in Ontario.

Dr. MH shares these experiences:

  • Doing clinical rotations in university affiliated teaching units with close proximity to program directors and post-graduate medical educators can help to get strong reference letters to include with an application to residency.
  • When applying to residency, Dr. MH focused on doing all electives in family medicine.
  • Some elective rotations can require moving to different cities every couple of months.

Electives for students in a Canadian residency program:

  • If you are in a residency program in a province outside of BC, doing an elective in BC can help you decide whether you are a good fit for a practice and a community.
  • Check with your residency program to confirm if and when your schedule can accommodate one or more electives.