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Preparing for an International Health Elective: Exploring Global Health, Ethics and Safety

Key information

Subject area:

FutureLearn Online Courses

Course type:

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

Credit level:

Not for credit


3 weeks

Available course dates:

From: 01 September 2023 To: 31 August 2024

Course overview

International health electives (IHEs) are highly variable, student-organised placements that offer important opportunities for student-directed learning about health and healthcare in unfamiliar contexts. They enable medical and healthcare students to take responsibility for their own learning and to explore areas of interest relevant to future careers.

However, there is evidence to suggest that international health electives do not always deliver the learning outcomes anticipated and that pre-elective learning can help to ensure a valuable and productive experience. This free online course, developed as a collaboration between King’s College London and St George’s, University of London, is aimed at learners currently studying in medical or healthcare disciplines and considering taking an IHE. On the course you will learn how you might avoid negative experiences and ensure that doing an IHE would be both valuable and productive, should you decide to undertake an elective yourself.

Understand the issues surrounding IHEs

On this course you’ll explore some of the problems that may be experienced during IHEs, including: working beyond competence, consumption of scarce host resources, suboptimal supervision, and risks to the health of students and the patients they see. We will present examples of student experiences with opportunities to discuss the choices and courses of action available, and guidelines to support decision-making when faced with challenging circumstances.

Learn how to get the most out of an IHE

In an already crowded medical school curriculum this free online course offers flexible learning to prepare you for undertaking your own IHE. Touching upon complex issues of ethics and professionalism, global health and clinical practice, the course aims to provide you with the information that you need to maximise the positive aspects and mitigate the negative elements of international health electives.

What does this course cover?

  • Understanding digital professionalism
  • Working beyond competence
  • Bringing gifts and dealing with scarcity
  • The impact of language barriers
  • Global Health and the Social Determinants of Health
  • Staying safe: Managing risk inside and outside the clinical environment
  • Health infrastructures and systems
  • Voluntourism
  • Experiencing different professional cultures

What will I achieve?

  • Demonstrate awareness of professional guidance on digital professionalism and be able to apply this to communications on electives.
  • Identify clinical procedures that it will be appropriate for you to undertake on your elective and those that are not.
  • Identify ethical issues that you are likely to encounter on your electives and adopt a structured approach to developing a response.
  • Recognise the importance of linguistic barriers on elective experiences and take steps to mitigate these.
  • Discuss from the global perspective the determinants of health and disease and variations in healthcare delivery and medical practice.
  • Identify the occupational health risks associated with planned electives, including the risk of body fluid exposure, and identify strategies to mitigate these risks.
  • Recognise that health systems are structured and function differently across the globe.
  • Discuss the essential components of a health system using the World Health Organisation (WHO) model.
  • Discuss the role of voluntourism in relation to international health electives.
  • Understand the challenges of working across professional cultures.

Who is this for?

This course is primarily aimed at those currently studying in medical or healthcare disciplines and who are considering undertaking an International Health Elective as part of their training.

What is the teaching schedule?

This course runs multiple times each year. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Please click the Apply button to find out when the next run will start. 

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Course status:


Full fee £0