Medical electives abroad - Kenya
Medical electives abroad - Kenya
Since 2003 we have been organising medical elective placements in Kenya for students combining their official University elective with the experience of a different lifestyle, culture and medical practice. Students are supervised at the hospital and they live locally in our own guesthouse, integrating with the community and also getting involved with the charitable activities of the Moving Mountains Trust. We have a strong network of staff to work with and the package we offer includes accommodation throughout, organisation of the elective, staff support in-country and internal travel.
"Thank you for the trip of a lifetime, my medical elective in Kenya was packed with experiences and memories, and I knew AA were always there to facilitate things if I needed. The work you are doing here is making a big difference - well done, and keep it up!" (Dr Joanna Byers)
We can offer placements for medical, nursing, physiotherapy and dentistry. Strong links have been developed through our partner charity Moving Mountains and an elective contributes directly to some of the developmental programmes that our charity runs in Kenya. There are opportunities to get experience across different departments or you can concentrate on a specific department within the hospital.
The basic elective period we offer is four weeks, after which you can add any number of weeks according to your University requirements, or add time on the end of the elective to experience a bit more of the diverse culture and wildlife across Kenya, either on an overland safari, trek to Point Lenana on Mount Kenya (the worlds highest via ferrata route and Africa's second highest trekking peak at 4,985m) or if it is a bit of R&R you're looking for we can offer advice and support on arranging some beach time in Mombasa or one of the islands off the coast.
Where in Kenya can you do an elective?
Our guesthouse is in Embu, which is a market town on the southern slopes of Mount Kenya. We offer the medical placements at Embu Level 5 Referral Hospital (formerly the Embu Provincial Hospital) which is the main hospital serving Eastern Province and Kenya's third largest referral hospital. It is a perfect place to stay, not too big and hectic like Nairobi, a nice cooler climate on the lower slopes of Mount Kenya and a safe and friendly atmosphere with lots of great accessible places to visit on weekends. It's also only a couple of hours from Nairobi and close to a number of National Parks, Reserves and Conservancies.
The electives are generally very sociable experiences and we'll meet you at the airport in Nairobi and take you up to Embu to meet Gilbert Njeru who manages the house and all the visitors (evening arrivals will mean one night in Nairobi before transferring to Embu the following morning).
How long can you stay in Kenya for an elective?
The minimum elective period for all students is four weeks, which is our minimum period when you book. You can then add weeks to comply with your specific University requirements. We organise the paperwork with the hospital and prepare your elective. Gilbert then introduces you to the medical staff when you arrive and you are given the roster for your activities. You can ask for preferences through us before your elective or you can discuss with the Doctor on arrival.
We welcome visitors to stay on in Kenya and volunteer at one of the Moving Mountains programmes after the Elective, or arrange for an overland safari, trek to the summit of Mt Kenya, Mt Meru or Kilimanjaro and / or arrange a beach holiday along the stunning coastline of East Africa, there is a list of options below and we're more than happy to offer advice and give itineraries and costs for all of the following, worth bearing in mind that the safari and mountain options can usually be discounted a little for Medical Students if we can coordinate students to join existing teams (or if there is a group of students that travelled together);
- Volunteer in Embu, where you can stay on in the guesthouse and help with our street kid rescue programme and assist with free medical care and advice for the children. You can also visit some of the schools we work with, get involved with our 'Black Cats' sports and music clubs and run a small public health campaign on personal hygiene, sex education, nutrition and good dental care with some local community health workers.
- Mountain options can be arranged on a number of different routes on both Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro or on the standard route on Mount Meru. Obviously Mount Kenya is the most accessible, and for many the most scenic but Kilimanjaro is the 'roof of Africa', and like Mount Meru they are just a days drive down to our base in Moshi, Tanzania.
- Safari's in Kenya tend to be tailor made to suit budgets and available time frames but there are so many great Parks, Reserves and Conservancies across Kenya that you're very much spoilt for choice. The tailor-made safari page on our website should give some good idea's but probably easier to speak to the office for advice on safari's, all our staff in the UK and Kenya have decades of travel experience across East Africa and will be more than happy to help.
- Beach holidays are an option too and again, the office can offer advice on where to go, accommodation options, how to get there and things to do, the new high speed train to Mombasa from Nairobi has made the coastline of Kenya much more accessible and cheaper to get to, and it cuts through Tsavo National Park with Tsavo East on one side and Tsavo West on the other so you'll see some wildlife on the way. There are also plenty of internal flight options to Mombasa, Lamu, Zanzibar, etc.
- Day and weekend trips can be organised on the ground during your Elective, there is so much to see and do that you'll struggle to fit it all in but the following link to the excursions page should give you a few ideas, the staff in Kenya will of course help when you are there.
Kenya is perfectly safe if you follow the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and our UK and Kenya office will always be on hand to offer advice and provide vehicles, staff and equipment for your plans.
Dates, daily routine and elective expectations
We can put together medical elective itineraries all year round, preferably arriving in Nairobi on the weekend or before so that you have time to settle in to your new surroundings. This also ensures that we have time to transfer you to your elective location and have you in place and ready to start your Elective on a Monday morning.
You will be expected to work a minimum of five shifts per week with each shift being an average of 8 hours long. Weekly rotas and ward rounds will be arranged on the ground with your supervising doctor or consultant and are designed according to your preferences. During your time in Kenya you should expect to also experience the following;
• A range of conditions which you are unlikely to have seen in practice in developed countries but with an ever increasing travelling public is more likely back home in the future.
• To gain invaluable experience in managing situations with limited resources and prioritising where there are little or no assumptions beforehand.
• To be involved with communities in planning and developing health promotion programmes allowing multi-disciplinary team work and leadership skills.
• To develop personal, financial and organisational skills within a broad ecological criteria, sensitive to environmental, social and cultural requirements.
• To be part of a program that increases the profile of health care in the community and possibly more important psychological implications of HIV, hepatitis and orphans.
Being a role model in Kenya during your medical elective
Certainly this elective offers a great chance to visit a hospital in a developing country and learn a lot, but also to give back to the local communities through the charity we partner with. We believe it's important that you have this opportunity to combine the benefits you will gain with the assistance you can give. We want people to use their experiences to gain skills and help them in their career and lives but we also feel a sense of duty to show that your visit is providing a positive benefit to people in need.
You will need to be enthusiastic, mature and sensible as well as adaptable and versatile. Living and working in Africa is very different to life at home and systems do not work in the same way. Social welfare largely does not exist as a state-provided facility, but social cohesion is strong. For most communities it is all they have. It is necessary to be respectful and appreciate that you will be looked up to by the entire community so you need to be a good role model.
You are not expected to see patients as a qualified Doctor, and it is important that you make it clear to the medical supervisor that your role is limited in this respect, and that the patients have the right to know if they are being seen by a student. Clearly a foreign visitor can create expectations so your ability to communicate is important, as well as our responsibility to create intelligent relationships.
Medical people are highly regarded and as such you will be fulfilling a role model for both the profession and the Moving Mountains Trust which is a well known NGO in the area. We ask that you dress and behave quite conservatively, and always arrive at work clean and on time. Your attitude and demeanour and clothing is important, and your ability to be accepted by the community depends largely on both your professionalism and how sociable you are. Always wear a white coat or scrubs in work (white coats are available locally, we have some in our guest house but you can also pick them up for a couple of £1 in Kenya).
Local benefits of a medical elective
You will directly help all of the patients that you work with and you will be directly assisting the medical staff in the hospital. Clearly you are there to learn, but there is no doubt that your presence is of great practical and emotional assistance, and there is a good chance you will also be communicating with the families and friends of patients. You have the potential to make a difference to people and to use your own verbal and non-verbal skills in a very beneficial and powerful way. Many people you meet will be illiterate and the word of a medical person is very highly regarded.
You will benefit the community financially by spending in the local shops, on entertainment, weekend visits or day trips. Your trip allows us to employ many people, many of whom where once sponsored by our charity. The 'MM' family is big, and many of the beneficiaries have worked for Adventure Alternative for many years. The medical electives we offer enable us to keep the family going, along with all the holidays and school trips and expeditions we run in east Africa. The company financially supports Moving Mountains so that all donations go to the programmes and projects and beneficiaries.
All along this journey you are not only giving to the local community but also developing yourself. We have a strong ethical stance on the long term benefit of medical electives to the community and we like to encourage our students to involve themselves as much as possible.
You will also be able to meet some of our beneficiaries who have gone into medicine or nursing or community health work, and hopefully give them some career advice and ideas for their own future. Med students often keep in touch on social media with some of the people they meet for many years after their elective.
Preparing for a medical elective
No specific training is required before an elective abroad. Do read up on Kenya before you travel, in particular the areas that you are planning to travel to. Prior knowledge on the history, cultures, tribes and local customs will really enhance your trip.
The majority of Kenyans speak very good English and you will have very little trouble communicating, but you may find it useful learning a few key Swahili words and phrases. Kenyans will love that you have made an effort to learn their language.
Clothing for a medical elective abroad
- Bag or suitcase, and hand luggage
- Selection of clothing, should be conservative and comfortable and at least four or five sets (there are laundry facilties)
- Rainjacket, umbrella and a warm jumper or jacket for the evenings. It can be cold during the middle months of the year.
- Comfortable footwear & trainers, and smarter shoes for your rounds. Flip flops or sandals also recommended.
- Good protection from the sun, like a hat, sunglasses, suncream.
- Wash kit and towel, but remember you can buy all consumables in the local shops
- Camera, mobile phone, laptop, tablet - plus charger units with three pin plugs.
- Torch, moneybelt, water bottle, insect repellant, padlocks, local guidebook and Swahili phrase book, pens and papers, text books
- White coats / scrubs, your own stethoscope, name badge, personal handgel and hairnet if necessary
- Personal first aid kit
The guesthouse has showers and flush toilets but some places you visit will not be so luxurious so always take your hand gel. You can buy everything you will need locally, including imported brands of shampoos and soaps and razors, so don't feel you need to bring it all with you!
In work stick to lightweight light clothing, it can get pretty hot in some of the rooms. In the guesthouse you can wear pretty much what you would wear at home. There are laundry facilities so don't worry about bringing everything you need for a month.
Please take your anti-malarial prophylactics very seriously, follow the entire course and don't miss out on any tablets. Malaria is a big concern and if you get any sort of fever then please do get yourself checked immediately for malaria.
We have a policy and documentation for dealing with injuries you might receive at work, particularly related to the HIV AIDS virus. Please make sure you read our documentation carefully on how to look after yourself, what to do if you get an accidental cut from a needle or if you are at all concerned about being in contact with potentially infected blood. The nearest WHO hospitals are in Nairobi and they are of world class quality. Some universities can supply PEP kits for you, but you will find they are accessible in all major hospitals in Kenya.
Fundraising for Moving Mountains
We very much hope that you can fundraise for the charity and therefore give something back to the community. It's quite easy to set up a fundraising page. In Embu some of the things you can fundraise for include:
- Daily feeding programme for up to 120 children
- Electricity and maintenance costs for the Rescue Centre
- Salaries for the social worker, cook and counsellor
- Educational materials at two schools in the town and a rural school outside Embu
- Salaries for Black Cats Football for Street Kids coach plus equipment and clothes
- Construction of a new complex for the re-location of Toto Love Children's Home (a children's home that we've been working with for a number of years and are now planning on helping them to build a new, larger Children's Home on land in Embu which they've acquired)
- Well established developmental perspective with a keen eye on integrity and emphasis on global health education
- Flexible electives with no fixed dates
- Close relationships with placement hospital and clinics.
- All our full time staff are experienced in working with foreigners and speak excellent English
- We actively support the local economy through an equitable model of collaboration and 'trade not aid'
- Our UK office staff regularly visit Kenya so you can chat to knowledgeable people
- Safe accommodation with all the facilities provided to cook, clean and wash
- Staff on hand to help teach you local culinary cuisine!
- Our electives meet the requirements of British medical schools.
- A chance to explore and travel in Kenya
Dates & Bookings
Medical Elective Kenya cost £1,195.00
- Four week elective period (extra weeks are £250 per week - you can book these as Extras online)
- Airport transfers and transport to elective locations with our staff
- Accommodation and utilities (electricity, gas, etc) in our guest house
- Accommodation required in Nairobi (for evening arrivals / early morning departures)
- Payment to hospital for the elective and your supervision
- Staff available throughout including guesthouse and elective manager
- International airfare to Nairobi
- Kenyan Visa - can be purchased on arrival or through the e-Visa system
- Vaccinations / anti-malarial tablets
- Travel Insurance
- Personal expenses for food, water, weekend visits, independent travel, souvenirs, etc
A deposit of £100 is required on booking to secure your place and we ask that the remaining balance is paid in full six weeks prior to your departure.
We would like all medical students to help fundraising for some of the long term developmental programmes run by Moving Mountains which promote good health, proper education and social welfare for some of the disadvantaged people you will be meeting in the communities where you are staying, in particular street children. Your trip can enable the charity to continue it's work and we would like to feel it is a sustainable approach whereby medical students can give something back.
You can set up a fundraising page with Justgiving.
We would also like to ask if you can bring any medical supplies with you to Kenya to donate to the local clinics, this is something that can be discussed in the run-up to your elective.
You will need standard holiday insurance cover for the usual policy items such as medical costs, repatriation, lost luggage and delays, plus trip cancellation. As a medical student on elective there is no need for any special insurance to cover your time working in the hospital.
Adventure Alternative has its own company in Kenya called Adventure Alternative Kenya. The company looks after all of your daily needs and manages you whilst in Kenya. It has qualified and experienced staff, vehicles and a large store of equipment and the expertise to ensure your trip runs smoothly, professionally and safely.
Choose a scheduled date or contact us to set up private dates or a bespoke itinerary. The minimum deposit is £100.00 and the balance is due four weeks before travel.
- Comfort Guest House