Clinical Electives: FAQs

i. Eligibility to Apply
ii. My Application
iii. If I Am Accepted

Eligibility to Apply:

Please note that given the current and on-going global pandemic, the NIH Clinical Electives Program is accepting applications only from students attending LCME-accredited and U.S. osteopathic schools only. The program is not reviewing international applications at the present time. The reopening date for students at international medical schools and non-LCME or non-US osteopathic schools has not been established.

Q: I do not attend a US accredited allopathic or osteopathic medical school, or a Canadian LCME-accredited medical school. What documentation is required for assessment of suitable communication skills for a CEP rotation?

A: The requirements and options for documentation of requisite communication skills are as follows:

Medical School Enrollment Status Requirement
U.S. citizen or permanent resident attending an international medical school, or Canadian citizen/permanent resident attending a non-LCME accredited medical school in Canada or an international medical school USMLE Step 2 CK score or an MSPE (Medical Student Performance Evaluation) provided by the Dean
UK, Australia, New Zealand, or Republic of Ireland citizen attending medical school in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, or Republic of Ireland Interpersonal and Patient-Oriented Communication Skills Certification from Dean. The Dean's letter must include a statement that attests that you are competent both interacting with and in communicating effectively and accurately with patients in the clinical setting.
Foreign national attending medical school outside the U.S. Occupational English Test (OET) Medicine, TOEFL (iBT) or IELTS

Q: I am a foreign national student attending medical school outside U.S. and would like to know what scores are acceptable for the tests refenced above.

A: The minimum acceptable iBT scores are: 28 on the listening subsection; 28 on the speaking subsection; 108 total score. For those submitting IELTs in place of TOEFL, the minimally acceptable scores are as follows: Total Score: 8, Listening: 8, and Speaking: 8.5.

For the OET the minimum score is 350 (Grade B) on each of the four measured components of OET Medicine: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. In addition, the minimum score of 350 (Grade B) on each of the four measured components must be achieved in one test administration.

Q: I am an International student, but the medium of teaching at my medical school is English. Is it possible to waive my OET, TOEFL or IELTs requirement?

A: No. One of the test results for the exams listed above must be submitted and cannot be waived.

Q: I am a U.S. citizen attending medical school outside of the U.S. and I understand that I need to have taken and passed the USMLE Step 2 CK (Clinical Knowledge) exam or provide an MSPE letter in my application. Is this correct?

A: Yes. Evidence of skills proficiency is required for all students who are US citizens or permanent residents attending international medical schools that are not LCME-accredited. With the termination of the USMLE Step 2 Clinical Skills exam, this evidence may be provided by submitting either a USMLE Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK) exam score or a MSPE from your Dean's office.

Q: For pending clerkship rotations listed on my academic transcript, is verification of a passing grade in writing from the core clerkship professor sufficient?

A: Yes. Verification of a passing grade in writing from the core clerkship professor is sufficient if an updated version of the transcript cannot be submitted in time for review prior to the requested rotation(s).

Q: I am attending medical school in a foreign country and want to apply for the NIH Clinical Electives Program to experience training in a U.S. hospital. Can I apply for the CEP?

A: While a medical student interested in obtaining short-term, introductory experience with the U.S. healthcare system may submit an application, we do not encourage this approach. The NIH Clinical Center is a tertiary-care hospital devoted exclusively to clinical research and it does not admit general medical, pediatric, obstetric, psychiatric or surgery patients. It also does not have an emergency department or a labor and delivery ward serving the medical needs of the surrounding community in Bethesda, MD. The CEP is more appropriate for students who are interested in obtaining experience with the medical care of selected subspecialty patients enrolled in clinical research protocols, and who have a specific career interest in research intensive academic medicine.

Q: If I am a non-U.S. citizen attending a medical school outside of the United States or Puerto Rico, do I need a visa in order to participate in the CEP?

A: Yes, non-citizens or non-permanent residents of the U.S. must obtain the required B-1 or WB visa in order to legally enter the country to participate in the CEP. Students must enter in the 'business' category.

Q: I am a foreign national enrolled in an accredited US medical school and hold an F-1 visa. Can I participate in the CEP?

A: It is possible but a medical student holding an F-1 visa would have to obtain his/her own work authorization. Generally, for F-1 medical students, this is an OPT or CPT. We advise such students, as a first step, to meet with their International Student Advisor to discuss the options open to them. Some schools will authorize the CPT for an elective rotation if it fits the curriculum, and others will not. Medical school policies are highly specialized so we cannot advise F-1 students on which course to pursue.

Q: How long does it take the NIH Division of International Services to Issue a B-1/WB visa support letter?

A: It takes up to 30 days.

Q: Do I need a letter from the NIH Division of International Services if I already have a visa/green card?

A: Yes. All international students are required to have a letter of support from the NIH Division of International Services (DIS). This letter will be provided by DIS once you are accepted for a rotation and required documents from you are received and reviewed.

Q: I am a medical school graduate and would like to participate in the CEP. Am I eligible?

A: No. Medical school graduates are not eligible to participate in the CEP, and current medical students cannot participate in a CEP rotation if their graduation date falls within the rotation date(s) of desired rotations at NIH.

Q: Does the CEP offer observerships?

A: No. The CEP does not offer observerships and will not entertain requests for such activities.

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My Application:

Q: Are all the Programs accepting International students?

A: No. The following rotations are limited to students enrolled in medical schools accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), or the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA), or dental schools accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA): Addiction Medicine, Critical Care Medicine, Medical Oncology, Pain and Palliative Care, Radiation Oncology, Surgical Oncology and Urologic Oncology.

Q: Is there an application fee?

A: No. There is no application fee.

Q: Is the four week elective time frame fixed or is it possible to extend or shorten my rotation?

A: The four week single elective time frame is fixed. However, if accepted, a student may negotiate a limited number of ad hoc excused absences with the rotation director for circumstances such as residency interviews. However, extended absences for interviewing are not permitted.

Q: How long prior to the start of the elective should I apply?

A: While there is no deadline, and applicants are accepted on a continuous basis, we advise students to apply as soon as possible. We advise international students to apply a minimum of 6 months prior to the desired elective start date and domestic students to apply a minimum of 3 months prior to the desired elective start date.

Q: My application was rejected by the three elective rotation choices that I listed. Can I change my list of elective choices to be considered for additional rotations?

A: No. Students are permitted to list a maximum of 3 elective rotation choices per application cycle during an academic year. If a student is not selected for any rotation during a specific academic year, he/she cannot request additional elective choices for the same academic year.

Q: How long does it take to review my application?

A: Applications are reviewed at the discretion of the rotation director as received. There is no fixed interval for review and response for requested CEP rotations. Students who are accepted to their first choice elective should hear within 3-5 weeks, and one to three weeks thereafter for each additional elective: the application is reviewed for one elective at a time. Students who are rejected should hear within 1-2 weeks.

Q: How will I be notified if I am selected?

A: The CEP Program Administrator will notify successful candidates by e-mail.

Q: What are the immunization requirements?

A: Students who are accepted must provide documentation of immunization for: Tetanus and Diphtheria booster; TB skin test or chest x-ray; Rubeola vaccine immunization or titer; Varicella vaccine immunization or titer; Influenza A and B; Hepatitis B vaccine (strongly recommended).

While proof of Covid-19 immunization is strongly suggested, it is not required. However, some rotation directors do require accepted students to be fully immunized against Covid-19 prior to the first day of the rotation.

Q: What do I need to include in my cover letter? Dean's letter? Reference letter?

A: The cover letter should be a one page letter that summarizes why you are interested, specifically, in a rotation at the NIH, in addition to your qualifying experiences and abilities. The cover letter should also outline your goals to be achieved by participating in the elective rotation at the NIH.

The dean's letter must verify that the student is in good academic standing in medical or dental school and recommended to participate in the rotation. For selected students referenced above, the Dean's letter should also as attest to the extent of your competence in effective and accurate communication with patients in the clinical setting.

A letter of reference from a faculty member who has supervised your clinical activities and can attest to your bedside clinical skills and competence in patient care and communication must be submitted as a credential.

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If I Am Accepted:

Q: Will I receive an evaluation at the end of my rotation that can be used for school credit?

A: Yes, at the end of every rotation, you are required to receive an evaluation from your preceptor that can be used for school credit. We prefer that the evaluation form be provided by the school for this purpose.

Q: Is there a rotation fee?

A: No. There is no rotation fee.

Q: My school does not provide professional liability and personal insurance. Can I purchase this on my own?

A: Yes. If the training agreement negotiated between the NIH and the student's medical/dental school does not specify that the school will provide both professional liability insurance and a personal health insurance policy to cover the student's stay at the NIH, the student must purchase this insurance. Liability insurance should be purchased, if necessary, only after a student is accepted and must be for a minimum of $1 million US dollars per occurrence and $3 million US dollars in the aggregate.

Q: I would like to start my rotation (if accepted) on a date other than the first Monday of the month. Is this possible?

A: We ask that, and strongly encourage, accepted students start on the first Monday of a month in order to schedule them for required hospital training that is mandatory for their rotation at the NIH Clinical Center. We are aware that medical school curricula sometimes mandate different rotation dates for student participation and any exception based on such issues will need approval from the rotation director and the CEP administrator. Please note: if the first Monday of a month falls on a federal government holiday, students will start on the following day. Students are expected to complete their rotations on the end date specified at the time of acceptance. Any request for an early departure date must be approved in advance of the rotation start date.

Q: If I were to be accepted for an elective, can I change the dates of my rotation?

A: Yes, but under limited circumstances. Provided that the rotation director can accommodate a student for alternate dates, it is possible to change the rotation dates once accepted.

Q: If I applied for and was accepted for only one elective, can I apply for other elective rotations?

A: Yes. Students may apply for up to three (four week) electives for any combination of months (maximum of twelve weeks) during any one academic year.

Q: Should I bring the white coat that was issued to me at my medical/dental school?

A: Yes, students should bring their own white coat as students are not issued white coats during their electives.

Q: Do I need a parking permit in order to park on the NIH campus?

A: Yes. If you plan to commute by private vehicle to the NIH, you will be issued a temporary parking permit that will cover the time period that you will be at the NIH. Students are asked not to drive to the NIH on the first day of their elective, but to use MetroRail or MetroBus. Both modes of transportation have stations on the NIH campus.

Q: Are living quarters available on the NIH campus?

A: No living quarters are available on the NIH campus. Cafeterias in the Clinical Center and other NIH buildings offer meals at moderate prices. Students are responsible for making their own travel and living arrangements and for all costs associated with such arrangements.

For information on rooms for rent or other available housing in the area please call the NIH Recreation and Welfare Association-Housing Office at (301) 496-4600. You may also view the NIH Office of Training and Education's Moving Guide.

The regional subway and rail system is called the Metro. The "Medical Center" Metro stop and bus transportation center is located adjacent to the NIH campus and permits easy access from and to nearby areas in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC. The NIH is located just 20 minutes from downtown Washington, DC.

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This page last updated on 07/06/2023

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