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What Are Medical Student Electives?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2016
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Medical student electives are classes that aren't a mandatory part of a medical degree program — a student chooses them rather being instructed to take them. These classes are meant to round out the student's education and increase his knowledge. The electives he takes can also help him decide what type of medical career he wants to choose. Each medical school program may vary, but electives are often taken in the fourth year.

Most of the classes a medical student takes are mandatory courses. This means they are classes every medical student has to complete if he hopes to earn a degree. As part of most medical school programs, however, a student has the opportunity to take electives. A student chooses medical student electives because he is interested in them rather than because they are on a required course list. For example, a person may be required to take anatomy and biochemistry in medical school but choose to take classes in anesthesiology and pain management as electives.

In most cases, medical student electives are intended to help students in a couple of different ways. For starters, a student can build his knowledge of a specific type of medicine by taking an elective. A student can also use electives to help him determine which type of medicine he wants to practice.

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The electives a medical student can take depends on the school he attends, but most schools offer clinical electives for students in their final year of medical school. These clinical electives involve learning through observation and work in the area of medicine the student chooses. All of the student's work is performed under the supervision of licensed, experienced medical staff to ensure that patients receive a suitable level of care and to allow supervising staff to evaluate student progress. Among the medical student electives a person might choose in his fourth year are anesthesiology, pain management, obstetrics and gynecology, neurology, and pediatrics. A person might also choose an elective in general surgery, cardiac surgery, ophthalmology or psychiatry.

Some schools also offer preclinical medical school electives. Such electives often involve learning in a classroom, seminar or group discussion format. Preclinical elective offerings may vary, but some schools offer these learning experiences in such subjects as applied nutrition, innovative medical care, and international service. Some programs also offer medical student electives in such subjects as community service and innovative medical care.

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