Medical gap years abroad
A worthwhile training experience or medical voluntourism? Cath Janes investigates
As if junior doctors didn't have enough to fret about. Now, as well as job hunting within the NHS they also have to think carefully about taking time out to work abroad. They can thank VSO (www.vso.org.uk), the international development charity, for that. With the organisation's recent warnings about the efficacy of gap year schemes, who can blame juniors for wondering whether it's worth the effort.
The debate about the usefulness of gap years kicked off in August 2007 when VSO warned young people about taking up “spurious work in developing countries.” Suddenly it seemed that many gap schemes offered little more than costly “voluntourism.” Stories abounded of experiences that paid lip service to the hyped up promises of placements. It seemed that not everyone who pitched up in developing countries, eager to put their medical training to use, had been given the chance to develop their professional portfolio.