As I'm interested in pursuing a career in radiology, I decided to research hospitals that were offering electives in this field. Electives can be a good time to explore distant parts of the world. However, keeping in mind language barriers and that I would be travelling alone, I decided to stay relatively local.
I had never visited the Republic of Ireland before and thought this would be a good opportunity. I came across Professor Eric Heffernan's radiology website for students where he shares interesting cases and tutorials. Prof Heffernan is a consultant radiologist at St Vincent's University Hospital (SVUH) specialising in musculoskeletal radiology. After exchanging a few emails, I was accepted into the department's fantastic electives programme.
St Vincent's and healthcare in Ireland
Ireland has a slightly different healthcare structure to the UK. The Health Service Executive (HSE) provides healthcare largely free of charge but there are a few services that require fees.
At St Vincent's there are two hospitals, one public and one providing private healthcare, and it has one of the largest radiology departments in Ireland.
Learning more about radiology
I split my time between diagnostic and interventional radiology (IR). In my first week, I was mainly observing Prof Heffernan's daily work. This included reporting on diseases seen on imaging (eg, X-ray, CT, MRI) and administering image-guided treatments.
I saw a ganglion cyst aspiration and barbotage for calcific tendonitis. Both procedures were guided by ultrasound. I was also able to see liver, lung and parotid gland biopsies being conducted. It was valuable to visualise the management of conditions I had learnt about in textbooks.
During my time in interventional radiology, there were a range of procedures taking place in the two IR suites at SVUH, such as the insertion of biliary stents, a nephrostomy exchange, and the insertion of implantable ports . They all required wearing protective lead aprons and thyroid shields, which tended to feel quite heavy towards the end of the day!
Overall, my time in the department helped me gain a clearer understanding of a radiologist's day-to-day schedule and the types of equipment they work with.
Living in Dublin
Dublin is a lively and historical city with lots to explore and do in your free time, especially Temple Bar and the beautiful Old Library on the Trinity College campus with 200,000 books, including the treasured Book of Kells - a ninth-century gospel manuscript.
On weekends I travelled further afield, visiting the scenic Wicklow Mountains and doing a short trip to Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.
That said, staying in Dublin for more than a few days can add up. I chose to live in student accommodation that was available to the public during summer holidays to reduce my costs. The hospital was a walkable distance away, which also helped reduce commuting costs.
Getting the most out of your elective
- Funding - There are many bursaries available for electives. If you are doing a longer elective with a research element, this may increase your chances of being accepted. Some bursaries are less competitive than you may initially think, so try and apply to a few early on.
- Record and reflect - Make a log of your daily activities while on your elective. This helps not only to consolidate your knowledge but also builds your CV and for writing blogs or articles, like this one.
- Ask for help - Planning your elective destination and specialty can be overwhelming. Try talking to your colleagues in older years for inspiration or emailing hospital departments.
- Get stuck in - Introduce yourself to everyone in the department and if you're curious about something, just ask! As you'll likely spend a few weeks working within a team, getting to know everyone will help you feel more comfortable and engaged.
Remember, MDU student members get free indemnity for their electives.
Photo credit: Tajri Salek
This page was correct at publication on 16/10/2023. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.