Medical elective in Kenya
Since 2003 we have been organising medical elective placements in several areas of Kenya to students interested in combining their elective with the experience of differing lifestyles, cultures and medical practice and treatment in developing countries. We integrate our medical students with the community and provide security and support through the very strong network of representatives and staff that we have in Kenya.
In Kenya opportunities are available in district and provincial hospitals and rural or slum clinics, or a combination of both which will provide you with an invaluable insight in to medicine and life in a developing country. Accommodation is provided in our guest houses across Kenya which you will share with fellow students, volunteers and teachers in a safe and social environment, living and experiencing the traditional way of life.
We have a wide variety of placements available including medical, nursing, physiotherapy and dentistry. Strong links with all the hospitals and clinics have been developed through our charity Moving Mountains. Click the more info tabs to the right to read the full services and facilities offered by each of the clinics/hospitals.
In Nairobi we offer placements at St Marys Mission Hospital and Ushirika Community Clinic. St Marys is a small hospital serving some of the poorest communities in Nairobi with affordable and quality healthcare. Ushirika is based in sub Saharan Africa’s largest slum - Kibera and runs outreach programmes for HIV/Aids patients within the slum.
In Western Kenya we offer placements in Siaya District Hospital and Dophil Community Clinic. Siaya is a rural area close to Lake Victoria and the Ugandan border. Siaya District is a large teaching hospital serving an extremely large population of rural living people and Dophil is a private clinic about 20 minutes drive from our Guest House on the grounds of Ulamba Orphanage.
In Eastern Kenya we can offer placements at the Embu Provincial Hospital and the Dallas Dispensary Clinic. Embu is a peaceful town on the southern slopes of Mt Kenya though the Provincial hospital is a relatively large teaching hospital and the main hospital serving the Eastern Province. It is also going through quite a large expansion and will soon be Kenya's third largest referral hospital. Dallas Dispensary is located in a slum of the same name which is the most densely-populated area in Embu.
In each place we have our own accommodation in secure guesthouses with flush toilets, locked bedrooms and nice locations. Our Elective experiences are not just for individuals, many people come as a small group of friends who want to share this unique experience together and we can accommodate small groups who want to share a similar experience no problem, whether that is in the same departments or in different departments within the same hospital.
Medical elective types
The elective program is not only open to Medical students; we also have elective opportunities available for Midwifery, Physiotherapy, Dentistry and Nursing students too. We can also cater for professional placements and work experience.
A Medical Elective to Kenya should attract people who have a real desire to explore a country and understand both it's development needs and also appreciate it's uniqueness. This will take an open mind, initiative and a sense of curiosity about the world. We really want people to come back from our trips and use their experiences to gain skills and help them in their career and lives. It may even contribute to people making some significant life choices.
To successfully undertake a medical placement with us you will also need to be enthusiastic, mature and sensible as well as adaptable and versatile. You do not need to have previously travelled abroad, but you do need to appreciate that living and working in Africa is very different to life at home. You also need to be respectful and appreciate that by undertaking such a placement that you will be looked up to by the entire community so you need to be a good role model. Most importantly though, you need to have initiative and a good sense of humour.
Local benefits of a medical elective
The local benefits felt due to you spending time with us in Kenya are huge. Starting at the grassroots level, you will directly help all of the patients that you work with. Wider than this then you impact upon the family and friends of your patients, of whom there are many; families in Kenya can be very big! Then there are the doctors and nurses whose work load is lightened by you being there. As the net broadens you also benefit the community by spending your allowance in the local shops, on entertainment, weekend visits or day trips. You also allow us to employ many great people, many of whom where once sponsored by our charity but now employed by the company. Then if you stand back and look at the big picture, one which is and has been a long term plan of Moving Mountains - the continual development of the charity and the locations where the charity works. Your role continues this work and the time you spend there forms part of this ongoing process. All along this journey you are not only giving to the local community but also developing yourself.
Selection for a medical elective
To confirm a place on an elective, you should follow the instructions on the 'Book Now' link. We also require a letter from your university stating that you are a genuine Medical student at that institution and which year you are expected to graduate. This can be posted or scanned and emailed to us at a later date. We can provide a confirmation letter which will have all the information required for your University application (name of supervisor, hospital details, address of Adventure Alternative Kenya, etc).
Training for a medical elective
No specific training is required before an Elective. However, we would highly recommend that you 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 only enhance your trip. We also strongly recommend that you examine the ethics of your trip by reading the article on the right hand side of this page entitled Ethics of a Medical Elective, and also Medical Elective Resources. We really cannot stress enough the need to read widely about the nature of electives, the pros and cons and the wider picture regarding development and how we attempt to uphold the principles of the MDGs and the NGO Code of Conduct.
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.
Medical elective role model
Without doubt you will witness the strong links between Adventure Alternative and Moving Mountains and the clinics and hospitals that you are placed in. As such you will be an ambassador to both Adventure Alternative and Moving Mountains and there will be many people looking to you as a role model. However, 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.
Moving Mountains, with the help and support of Adventure Alternative, has successfully assisted many people and projects around the country. To be able to do this in countries where corruption is a common human trait is no easy task. It takes careful assessment, implementation and management over many years. It also takes years to understand the principles of aid and charity within such communities. Any charitable donations should be made through the appropriate channels and advice should always be sought from our staff.
The Moving Mountains link
Adventure Alternative works with the Moving Mountains Trust which operates NGOs in Kenya and Nepal and carries out many long term projects and programmes. ‘MM’ was started by Director Gavin Bate during many years working in aid work and development, and ‘AA’ is the company that provides revenue and investment for many of them to become financially self-sufficient. This relationship between company and charity began in 1991 and our elective programme has sprung from the relationships we have with the medical authorities and the communities which you will visit.
More than just an elective provider, we run long-term ongoing medical programmes with our NGO and also at the request of local communities and hospitals. We have worked with medical authorities in many locations to ensure ongoing continuity as well as medical co-operation with other aspects of our work, for example the children’s homes we build and run, and the satellite private clinics which serve smaller remote communities.
We provide the convenience of an organised elective, and we work to ensure that the time overseas is a highlight of your undergraduate years as well as a necessary addition to your competencies and clinical experience. You can also explore non-clinical skills like teaching, or getting involved with the Moving Mountains programmes, such as helping out in the children’s homes.
Clearly there is an appeal in visiting a different country and culture, but this is also a chance to see relief work first hand and understand how an NGO runs.
Perhaps most importantly it will allow you to see how an organisation with a developmental perspective is upholding the principles of the Millennium Development Goals. Director Gavin Bate has been involved in the overseas development industry for many years and has developed a structure in Adventure Alternative which reflects the unprecedented opportunity of the post-2015 agenda once the MDGs expire. He regularly attends events at the Overseas Development Institute and Business Fights Poverty to ensure that the integrity of the AA trips is upheld.
Medical elective Kenya itinerary
After arrival in Kenya you will be met at the airport by a member of staff from our local company Adventure Alternative Kenya and transferred to the comfortable accommodation we have on the outskirts of Nairobi for initial briefing and preparation for the elective. There are plenty of shops nearby and you can also visit some of the well known sightseeing spots before travelling to the elective location.
We have a number of locations for the elective, and all of them have been linked with us and Moving Mountains for many years. We pay the institution a fee for hosting you, and over the years this accumulated money has enabled the clinics to thrive and develop. In some cases, for example the Dophil clinic in Western Kenya, the interaction with medical students has been so successful that we have seen long term positive healthcare changes, especially in terms of primary healthcare education and treatment rates for conditions such as diarrhoea in babies. With hospitals like Embu County and Siaya District, the relationship has allowed the administration to invest in new machinery, beds and even cows!
Our standard elective programme lasts for 4 weeks and they can be done at any time of the year. We are able to arrange longer placements and programmes to suit individual interests and requirements upon request. If you want to spend longer in the country then you could split your visit between two different environments, for example a rural district hospital and a small satellite clinic. Each has its own particular features which are useful for the medical student.
Adventure Alternative makes all the arrangements with the hospital and/or clinics and provides the in-country back-up to introduce you to life in Kenya, and assist you with the working routine. They are there to help you through each step of your experience and make sure that you get a good idea of the social side of life in Kenya, it is very colourful and a lot of fun. We make your stay comfortable and secure without missing out on the essence of being in such diverse and incredible continent. Living locally in our guesthouses has the benefit of ensuring you immerse yourself in local life, shopping in the markets and cooking local recipes, making friends and learning the language. Each day you travel to the hospital or clinic using local transport and during the weekends you can go on sightseeing trips or visits here and there. We normally find that our students meet up with other students while they are there, and the whole experience is very sociable. Many people go on to travel afterwards and thankfully many of them stay in touch with Moving Mountains and get involved with our long term healthcare aims.
We work with the provincial health authorities as well as the individual clinics and hospitals, so you can be sure that your visit is related to a need that has been identified locally, and that the benefits of your visit are transparently recognized by all the staff. We see your visit as benefiting both yourself and the community you are visiting, but only because of the particular nature of the relationship we have built up over many years with the local stakeholders. These include the provincial health officer, local Doctors and community health workers. We really encourage you to meet these people and find out as much as possible about healthcare in this region.
At all times you will have contact with us in the main office in the UK. Adventure Alternative Kenya is a subsidiary of the Adventure Alternative so you can be sure that we will remain responsible for you and have contact with both you and all of our staff.
Aside from the Elective experience there will be plenty to do in free time, at the weekends and/or before and after your Elective. Kenya has so much to offer visitors and there is never a shortage for something to do, whether that is volunteering on a local Moving Mountains project or visiting a local tourist attraction on a day trip, climbing Mount Kenya, travelling down to the beautiful coastline and warm waters of the Indian Ocean, or taking in a safari to one of Kenya's many National Parks and Game Reserves; our staff in country and in the UK can help with the planning, organisation and advice to make any of this happen.
Obviously some hospitals and clinics will provide more services, departments and facilities than others but we will help place you in suitable locations and provide every opportunity to build your elective around preferred departments and experience.
You will be expected to work a minimum of five shifts per week with each shift being an average of 8 hours long. Weekly rota’s will be arranged on the ground with your supervising doctor or consultant and will be designed according to your preferences.
There is also plenty to get involved with on your days off. Each area will have local attractions and areas of natural beauty to visit and you will be more than welcome to help out with Moving Mountains projects.
During your time in Kenya you should expect 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 program’s 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.
We appreciate that at the weekends or before/after your stay with Adventure Alternative you may decide to independently travel to areas where Adventure Alternative does not have staff or a local presence. In this case our staff can advise you on the safest modes of transport and locations however we cannot be held responsible for you or your safety. We can, when possible, assist however this response is governed by distance, logistics and location.
Medical Elective Kenya cost £950.00
- A 4 week Elective period (any extra weeks are £150 per week)
- Airport transfers
- Transport between elective locations (accompanied by Adventure Alternative staff)
- Accommodation and costs (electricity, gas, etc) in the Adventure Alternative Guest Houses
- Weekly allowance for food and local transport
- Financial investment made to hospitals and clinics on your behalf
- Financial investment made to Moving Mountains projects on your behalf (for example community health programmes)
- The cost of your placement at the clinic/hospital plus all supervision
- Kenyan staff and administration costs
- International airfare to Nairobi
- Kenyan Visa - can be purchased on arrival ($50/£30)
- Vaccinations/anti-malarial tablets
- Travel Insurance
- Personal expenses for weekend visits, independent travel, souvenirs, etc
We can put together medical elective itineraries all year round, preferably arriving in Nairobi on a Saturday 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 (if it is outside Nairobi) and have you in place and ready to start your Elective on a Monday morning.
You can plan your departure from the Sunday on the last week of your Elective, however most people remain in Kenya for at least one extra week to experience some more of what Kenya has to offer, whether that is a safari, climb on Mt Kenya, trip to the coastal region or even an extra week volunteering on one of our Moving Mountains projects.
When it comes to health and travel insurance, do get this organised well in advance of your trip. If you intend to undertake certain “higher risk” activities such as skiing, scuba diving or perhaps the odd ski dive then ensure you take out adequate cover. Many travel insurance companies offer annual or multi-trip insurance for just a few pounds more. If you think you might take another trip before or after you return from your elective then you would probably save money this way.
Remember to take a close look at what your policy will and won't cover - not only your health but your personal belongings too. Most electives are for at least a month and the more time you spend travelling the more likely it is that something will get lost or stolen along the way. The safest tip is to only bring essential items. For the things you can’t do without, if they are of value, be sure that they are covered on your travel insurance policy (remembering to take the 'excess' into account).
Adventure Alternative runs its own company in Kenya called Adventure Alternative Kenya. This company is a registered tour operator and headed up by Kelly Kioko (see our staff page). The company looks after all of your daily needs and manages you whilst in Kenya. The company has a large set up in Nairobi and bases all over the country. 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. All the staff have been with us for over a decade and have been trained to a very high standard. They are well used to working with Westerners and will enjoy showing you their country and making sure you have a great time.
Medical elective Kenya - clothing
- 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. Make sure you keep these very safe.
- Torch, moneybelt, water bottle, insect repellant, padlocks, local guidebook and Swahili phrase book, pens and papers
- Several white coats, your own stethoscope, name badge, personal handgel and hairnet if necessary, and a box of latex gloves
- Personal first aid kit
Medical people in Kenya 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 will be noted by everyone, 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 in work.
Do look after your belongings and keep your room locked and bags padlocked and personal items kept away. Laptops left on a table or phones left on a bed will invite opportunistic crime, even though the local people are honest and fun loving.
Keeping clean and hygienic is also important. The guesthouse has showers and flush toilets but some places you visit will not be so luxurious. Always take your hand gel and always wash your hands and keep as clean as possible. You can buy everything locally, such as shampoos and soaps and razors, so don't feel you need to bring it all with you! Do however bring your own stock of work gloves, and your own white coats. These are often in short supply. You may want to donate yours to the clinic when you leave.
In work stick to lightweight light clothing, it can get pretty hot in some of the rooms, and no shorts or any sort of revealing clothing. Kenyan people are conservative by nature and your clothing will say a lot about you.
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. Take a good washkit so you are well prepared and a good personal first aid kit as well. Common ailments include GI infections, headaches (often related to the heat and sun and dehydration) and occasionally a common cold. Please take your anti-malarial prophylactics very seriously, follow the entire course and don't miss out on any tablets. We cannot be held responsible if you forget to take, or choose not to take, such an important drug. Malaria is a big concern and if you get any sort of fever then please do get yourself checked 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 very 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. Similarly you must ensure you are aware of where the nearest WHO clinic is, and where you can access the necessary retrovirals quickly. Some universities can supply these PEP kits for you, but you will find they are accessible in all major hospitals in Kenya.
In terms of the best personal first aid kit and vaccinations you should get in advance of travelling to Kenya we advise that you visit your GP and also a specialist organisation like Interhealth, with whom we have a long standing contractual relationship. They provide a telemedicine service for us, which you have full access to as a client, but they also provide pre-trip screening (including psychological), an excellent preparation course and specific advice on anti-malarials for the areas you will be visiting. We strongly recommend Interhealth as an important place to visit prior to your medical elective.
Medical elective Kenya local benefits
- 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 hospitals and clinics, some of them more than fifteen years
- Our funding model fulfils the criteria of Fair Trade Volunteering.
- All our full time staff are trained and experienced in working with foreigners
- We actively support the local economy through an equitable model of collaboration and 'trade not aid'
- We do not sub-contract our responsibilities
- Our UK office staff regularly visit Kenya & Nepal so you can chat to people who understand what it's like to go to there for the first time
- We run free Medical Camps in Nepal and Kenya and depending on your Elective dates it may be possible to get involved with these
- Comprehensive pre-departure advice and support, 24/7 medical support during your trip and qualified supervision who have worked with us for many years.
- Safe accommodation and a cash kitty for your use to buy your own food and cook yourselves, or staff on hand to help teach you local culinary cuisine!
- We work in just a few destinations where we have worked hard to promote long term relationships that have a clear benefit for all stakeholders.
- Very interesting variety of cases, treatments and patient care in different.environments offering a chance to expand your medical knowledge and enhance understanding of disease progression.
- Our electives meet the requirements of British medical schools.
All of the regions where we operate have a long history with Adventure Alternative. Through the relationships we have built you will find a huge support network of amazing and caring people. However, this does not mean that you have no freedom! What you have is someone to always turn to for advice or guidance, someone to help you settle into your surroundings and help you as you develop into your role. Our team is made up of councillors, project managers, local chiefs, head teachers, health care workers, house staff, drivers – the list goes on and on! All of these people are there to ensure you have a great time and are comfortable and aware of what you are doing. They are also fun, energetic people who have your happiness as their priority.
Adventure Alternative also gives a donation to specific Moving Mountains projects in the areas where you work. So for example, if you stay in Embu for 4 weeks another 10,000 Shillings (estimated £75) will be given to Moving Mountains on your behalf, which is different to the hospital donation and helps to offset our long term Moving Mountains project costs. So, the feeding program for the street children in Embu costs Moving Mountains about 85,000 Shillings a month, so by you simply coming to work at Embu Provincial you are directly benefiting the street child centre. Having 4 people in Embu for the same month will basically cover the costs of nearly half of a program that provides food twice a day for well over 100 street boys and girls who you will more than likely get to know and love during your time in Embu.
VALUE OF YOUR VISIT
Adventure Alternative spear heads fair trade tourism; We believe that this should always play a big part of any Adventure Alternative trip and hopefully you will realise that by coming on an Elective with Adventure Alternative it is not just about what you get from the experience but what you give back, both financially through payments made on your behalf to Moving Mountains but also from your skills, time and effort in the hospitals and clinics.
Financially you are given a weekly food allowance so that you can buy and prepare your own food. All of this money is generally spent in the local shops and markets. Your time in Kenya also allows us to employ many people and has allowed us to set up and develop a great team of Kenyan staff – many of whom are former beneficiaries of our charity.
Your time in Kenya on a Medical Elective continues over two decades of work in the many hospitals and clinics and locations around the country. It’s this vision and longevity which makes these trips unique, safe and fulfilling for all that are involved.
Full details of our medical contributions and charitable projects can be found at our Moving Mountains website. Adventure Alternative was the winner of the Responsible Tourism Award in 2009 in the Best Personal Contribution category, and we are member of the Tourism Concern Ethical Tour Operators Group.
We have just returned from the most amazing trip to Kenya. What a wonderful country and it very quickly gets under your …Read More Sara Buck, Medical Electives Network
I did my first medical elective in Embu, Kenya in 2006. It was my first trip to Africa and, needless to say, I was not s…Read More Lindsay B
- Duration 4 weeks (minimum)
- Numbers 1+
- Comfort Guesthouse