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Nonclinical medical student away rotations

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Medical students interested in exploring nonclinical career opportunities should look into applying for a nonclinical away rotation during their fourth year. A number of medical schools and hospitals have established medical student away rotations in a variety of nonclinical areas related to healthcare delivery. These include quality improvement, clinical informatics, business, law, and others.

10 medical student away rotations without clinical responsibilities

One of the rotations listed below – Quality Management and Patient Safety at Baystate Medical Center – I completed myself back in the day as a fourth year medical student. It was super. It was well organized and was a great learning experience. The main focus was carrying out my own quality improvement project throughout the month, but I had a bunch of other activities interspersed. A few of these were:

  • Meeting with clinicians who were involved in quality management on different levels
  • Attending committee meetings and senior leadership meetings related to quality and safety
  • Participating in various quality management initiatives that were ongoing within the organization.

The rest of the rotations that made the list are the neatest-sounding ones that I’m aware of that most closely align with the skills and responsibilities of popular nonclinical jobs.

1. Quality Management and Patient Safety

Location: Baystate Medical Center – Springfield, MA

Length:  4 weeks

This elective is designed to explore the fundamental issues in defining, measuring, and improving healthcare quality and safety. The student will gain an appreciation for how healthcare quality is defined and of the practical application of evidence-based medicine.

2. Medical Administration and Quality Improvement

Location: UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine – Los Angeles, CA

Length:  3 weeks

This course is an introduction to general principles of healthcare management, from the perspective of physicians involved in medical administration. The student will be exposed first-hand to the behind-the-scenes processes that keep our hospitals and clinics running smoothly by attending committee meetings and meeting leaders of different hospital departments.

 3. Climate Change and Medicine

Location: University of Colorado – Aurora, CO

Length:  2 weeks

Climate change has profound impacts on health, including food insecurity, degraded air quality, civil unrest, and changes in vector-borne disease. This course explores the physiologic, ecologic, and social interactions resulting in these impacts and provides a foundation in climate medicine and skills in science communication, policy, and advocacy.

4. Expanding Wikiproject Medicine

Location: UC San Francisco – San Francisco, CA

Length:  4 weeks

Admit it – you use Wikipedia extensively. Who doesn’t? But do you use it for medical information? Your patients do! So if Wikipedia is the most widely used medical reference in the world, and the third most visited medical reference in the US, why not be a part of increasing the quality of reliable information there by becoming a WikiProject: Medicine editor? This course will teach you how.

5. Foundations in Patient Safety and Health Care Quality

Location: U of Texas Medical Branch – Galveston, TX

Length:  4 weeks

As an Interprofessional course, this elective will allow medical students to interact, learn, collaborate and participate in an interprofessional setting with students from other schools at UTMB. Students will complete assigned required readings, including the Institute of Medicine Landmark report on “To Err is Human.” Students will participate in weekly class lectures and discussion of various patient safety and quality topics. Students will attend local patient safety committee and/or joint quality improvement committee meetings.

6. Medical Education Curriculum

Location: Maine Medical Center – Portland, ME

Length:  4 weeks

The purpose of this elective is to help medical students develop and practice basic principles of teaching in preparation for their lifelong role as educators. They will have the opportunity to read educational literature and will meet weekly with a different member of the Maine Track faculty to discuss the following four topics: principles of adult learning, lesson planning, addressing different learning styles, and assessment strategies.

7. Clinical Informatics and Research in Primary Care

Location: Albert Einstein College of Medicine – Bronx, NY

Length:  4 weeks

Students will participate in developing and implementing a web-based curriculum in evaluating the e-Clinician Project, funded as part of the Health Alert Network of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene administered by Clinical Directors Network, a primary care practice-based research network in NYC. The e-Clinician Project is designed to disseminate evidence-based clinical practice guidelines and to improve access to the clinical decision-support tools on handheld personal computers for clinicians practicing in patient care.

8. Medical Informatics

Location: MetroHealth Medical Center – Cleveland, OH

Length:  4 weeks

Medical Informatics is a rapidly growing field in healthcare which involves the use of computer technology to improve healthcare. After a brief introduction to the overall field of medical informatics through a course pack, this rotation will focus primarily on clinical informatics. Clinical informatics is the sub-field of medical informatics concerned with how computer technology affects clinical care. Examples of clinical informatics topics include electronic medical records, clinical decision support, and personal health records.

9. Business in Medicine

Location: Weill Cornell Medical College – New York, NY

Length:  4-8 weeks

This 4th year elective is intended to provide a means for interested medical students to learn about the business side of medicine. Each student is required to write a proposal delineating a project, select a WMC faculty mentor, and be assigned to a Business Mentor who will guide the student. Placements include pharmaceutical companies, biotech companies, managed care/insurance companies, hospitals, and financial corporations.

10. Law and Medicine

Location: Emory University School of Medicine – Atlanta, GA

Length:  4 weeks

Students will observe and participate in advocacy and problem-solving on behalf of low income clients served by the HeLP Legal Services Clinic at GSU College of Law and at the Health Law Partnership at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Half the time will be spent working with law students at the HeLP Legal Services Clinic. The other half of the time will be spent at the hospital-based office of the Health Law Partnership, where students may assist in client intake, observe court appearances, observe case acceptance meetings, and participate in other functions related to the business of serving the legal needs of low-income clients whose children are being cared for by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

A few notes about these nonclinical electives

If any of these opportunities spark your interest, here are a few things to note:

  • All of these electives are listed on the AAMC Visiting Student Application Service (VSAS) site.
  • They are listed as “Clinical” under Elective Type, which is clearly at odds with my description of them as nonclinical. By “clinical,” the AAMC merely means they are not research electives. While I can’t make guarantees, my reading about these rotations indicates that they do not involve direct patient care.
  • There are more nonclinical medical student away rotations than what I have listed here! You may be interested in an elective of this type, but are restricted geographically or to a certain block during the year. You should definitely peruse the VSAS website to find other options that may be a fit for you.

Good luck in your elective search and applications!

1 thought on “Nonclinical medical student away rotations”

  1. Iam a foreign trained MD , I am pursuing a a phd in Biomedical research (translational research).
    I will like to trasit into the industry and seeking advice on how to do that.

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