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How to Find U.S. Clinical Experience for FREE?

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How to Find U.S. Clinical Experience for FREE? A Complete Guide to Electives and Observerships in the U.S.

How to find U.S. Clinical Experience for FREE? Do you find this task complicated and hard to follow as an IMG? Well take a seat, and buckle up as we answer these most commonly asked questions about U.S. clinical experiences (USCE):
  1. What are the various types of U.S. clinical experience?
  2. What are the requirements for each?
  3. What is the financial cost involved with partaking in a U.S. Clinical Experience?
  4. How to find rotations for FREE?

1.What are the various types of U.S. clinical experiences (USCE)?

There are three main types of USCE: Electives, Observerships and Externships.




Should I do Electives or Observerships?

If you had to choose one type of U.S. Clinical Experience “USCE” you should definitely consider doing an Elective, because it allows you to have the hands-on experience that U.S. Medical Student receive and the ability to get an individualized letters of recommendation that would boost your C.V.

2.What are the requirements for Electives and Observerships?


Observerships & Externships:

Most institutions ask for immunization forms while doing observerships/externships and some might ask for health insurance as well.

What visa do I need when doing electives or observerships?

Most students do electives or observerships under the B1/B2 category. Some institutions sponsor a J1 or F1 for electives or observerships.

3.What is the financial aspect of U.S. Clinical Experience?

The fees vary a lot between institutions and the type of rotation. So, let’s start with them one by one:


Observerships & Externships:

Besides paying the fees of the rotation you also have to support yourself (rent, transportation, basic daily needs), all of which should be taken into consideration. The cost of living in the U.S. has been discussed in another blog.

When searching for a place to stay during the rotation, AirBnB or a hotel are the more expensive options. Consider taking a look into Rotating Room 
which is a platform created to help visiting medical students find places to stay from other trusted students or professionals.

4.How to find rotations for free?

We have all heard about the companies that can provide you with USCE, but generally speaking, these companies only provide you with externships or observerships. Companies generally do not provide you with electives which are the best type of USCE.

How to find electives?

For finding electives, search the websites of different institutions (you can find a full list on the ACGME website or doximity ). You can also check out the list of the best hospitals in the US and their requirements for electives.

Then, search these websites for visiting medical students, electives, away rotations, or even simply rotations for medical students. You will then be able to see all the requirements and deadlines for these electives.

Here is an example of the visiting medical student page from the Mayo Clinic. You can see on this page, under the application process, the requirements, deadlines, and everything you need to know about their application process.

Our elective list has a detailed list of requirements for those applying to electives.

U.S. Clinical Experience

Our multi-specialty rotations ranging from hands-on to observerships will give your application the boost it needs!

How to find observerships or externships?

You can find observerships or externships through networking connections or companies

So just keep these factors in mind when looking at different companies and what they offer.

U.S. Clinical Experience

Our multi-specialty rotations ranging from hands-on to observerships will give your application the boost it needs!

Do you get letters of recommendations from electives, observerships, and externships?

Yes. Most students usually get a letter of recommendation (LOR) after a rotation. However, you have to ask for it. Most physicians will not offer you the LOR unless you ask for it. So, make sure to discuss this topic about a week before the end of your rotation. If you are applying to the MATCH® in a few years from the rotation, ask the physician to write the letter and save it for you so you can use it when you apply to the MATCH.

Letters of recommendations from electives are generally much stronger than those from observerships as the physician writing them can testify to your clinical or surgical skills which are much harder to assess when you are just observing a student during an observership.

You can refer to our YouTube video on Letters of Recommendation here.

When should I apply for electives or observerships?

Electives are more time sensitive than observerships since you need to do them before your graduate. Also, most electives require you to apply at least 3-6 months before your elective start date. So, you have to have Step 1 done and your full elective application at least 6 months before graduation. That is why early planning is key in securing electives.

For observerships, generally availability depends on spots available from the company you are securing it from or the schedule of the physician you are contacting.  

To check the list of electives in the best hospitals in the US and their requirements, go here

For a list of US residency programs and IMGs in these programs, check this blog post

5.Final piece of advice:

Now, we would like to hear from you all on what the main problems you think you will face as an IMG going through your residency journey? And how you anticipate solving them?
🏥For Match and Residency advising, check out our one-on-one advising plans:


👨🏻‍🏫 Still confused? Get our service The Mentorship Package to get the best guidance along the way:


And good luck with your future projects everyone!

By Hasan Najjar

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