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What counts as U.S. clinical experience?

When it comes to clinical experience, you may hear it referred to as a variety of different things. Some may refer to it as an observership, externship, clerkship, elective, or rotation. But what is the difference between these terms and how can you determine what is considered clinical experience and what is not? In this blog post, we will discuss the various terms used for clinical experience and how you can determine what words correctly describe your experience, and how you can apply them to your ERAS application.

Not considered USCE


The meaning of "observership" is in the word itself - observe. In an observership, you are solely observing the preceptor or physician that you are training under. Therefore, you are not involved in any hands-on activities. Observerships may not count as US clinical experience for this reason. Typically, observerships are less valued by residency programs but there are some programs that may find them valuable.


A "shadowing" experience can be used interchangeably with the term observership. A shadowing experience is where you are following as an understudy to the preceptor to learn and observe their day-to-day roles and responsibilities. Because you are not involved in hands-on activities or direct patient care, this may not count as US clinical experience.

Considered USCE


An "externship" is vastly different than an observership. This term can be less clear as it can mean a variety of things. However, an externship is a clinical experience that takes place after graduation from medical school. This is typically a hands-on learning experience done under the supervision of a US physician and is, therefore, considered as US clinical experience.


This term typically refers to current medical students. "Clerkship", also referred to as core rotations or electives, is typically part of the medical school curriculum and counts towards educational credit. However, clerkships are done at hospitals that are affiliated with your medical school. Therefore, it is considered as US clinical experience.


As mentioned in the paragraph about clerkships, the term "elective" has been used synonymously to describe a rotation that is done as part of the medical school curriculum. However, an elective is slightly different than a clerkship. While it is part of the medical school curriculum, it is an optional clinical experience that can be done outside of your institution's affiliation. if you are an international medical student and you choose to take an elective in the US, then you can consider it as US clinical experience in ERAS.


The term "rotation" refers to a learning experience where the student or graduate learns under the supervision of a preceptor or physician. Core rotations are part of educational credit, as previously mentioned, but rotations through third parties or resources outside of your medical school can also be used towards gaining US clinical experience.

MD2B Connect: IMG Rotation Program

Learn more about our IMG Rotations programs for those interested in gaining US clinical experience. We offer over 160 US clinical experiences in 32 specialties and 28 cities across the United States. With preceptors who are caring mentors and our team who is dedicated to providing you with the best rotation experience possible, you can know you're in good hands when working with us.

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