Should you Do a Radiology Elective?

Fourth year of medical school you usually have more weeks of electives available and it can be hard to decide what to do with all that time.

Is there any benefit to doing a radiology elective?

RadiologyYes. I’m only on the second day of mine, and I think it’s been pretty useful already. I’m doing a two week rotation, and I get to float between different doctors. It’s not all sitting in dark rooms – you also get to see procedures like barium swallow studies and interventional radiology procedures. And, with the right teacher, you re-learn a lot of anatomy you may have forgotten and what type of imaging is best for diagnosing or ruling out certain conditions. That last part is why the rotation is important for family medicine – if you don’t know what to order for your patients you’re going to waste their time and money getting an improper study. For example, yesterday I learned that getting an x-ray for chronic sinusitis is not useful at all, but many doctors in the area still do it because that’s what they were taught years ago. Now that CT is readily available and affordable (compared to costs a decade ago) it’s the gold standard for diagnosis.

What are the negatives?

Most of the day there’s no patients, just you and the radiologist and the imaging. If they get busy and aren’t talking with you the quiet, dim room can make you sleepy. And after a few hours of looking at imaging you may get bored. I’d recommend a 1 or 2 week rotation, any more is excessive for those of us not interested in a radiology career.

Can’t I just use online resources?

Sure you can. But there is always so much more to be gained by learning from another person, who will make you think harder by asking you questions and encouraging you to analyze the imaging. The pearls of practice can be given on a website, but the way an attending leads you to those pearls makes them more memorable. That said, be sure to check out the resources listed below, which will definitely help you learn!

By Pixie




Resources: – Completely free cases online, and several paid courses served up with Australian accents. – Has a section for medstudents to learn the basics, great website

22 Must See Diagnoses – LearningRadiology’s powerpoint on the things you don’t want to miss

John Hopkins Team RADS – great resource for basics, patterns and info

Reddit Tips for Radiology Rotation – when they tell you to go home, definitely go home


Pixie is happiest reading with a cup of tea in hand. She enjoys women’s health, adolescent medicine, painting and polymer clay. For more info, see her much longer bio on the author page.

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