Medicine - Clinical Attachments/Placements During the Undergraduate Medical Programme

Clinical Attachments


Medical students will experience a variety of clinical placements throughout the five years of the course.  There is emphasis throughout the course on patient contact, beginning with the Family Attachment Scheme in the first semester of first year.   In addition, students will, by the end of second year, have had 5 clinical attachments, at least one of which will be a hospital attachment and the others with a GP practice in the greater Belfast area.

Students may be attached to any of the hospitals in Northern Ireland for their attachments in 3rd, 4th and 5th year.  There is a strong emphasis on bedside teaching, patient safety and teamwork. The learning in clinical placement is supported by teaching using hi and lo fidelity simulation in the Clinical Skills Education Centre.   

In 3rd year students are assigned to one hospital for 13 weeks for both general medicine and general surgery. The attachments during the other 13 week semester currently include nephrology, haematology, neurosciences and musculoskeletal medicine and vary in length from 1 week to 3 weeks.

During 4th year students undertake attachments for either 2, 4 or 6 weeks. These currently include psychiatry, ageing and health, General Practice, cancer studies, and health care of children.

In 5th year students have the opportunity to select speciality attachments in a range of areas in addition to general medicine and general surgery.

Students are required throughout the course to maintain a Personal Development Portfolio which is designed to offer students the opportunity to develop their skills in reflection on learning which they will be required to do throughout their career in medicine.

The final attachment for all students prior to graduation is the Clinical Assistantship.  This attachment is currently 9 weeks long and includes 1 week based in a General Practice.  The Assistantship enables students to become more embedded in the clinical team and is designed to support the transition from medical student to Foundation Doctor.    


Final Year Elective

The Final Year Medical Elective is a 6 week clinical placement which is timetabled to take place over the summer period and can be undertaken in the UK or overseas. The aim is to develop your knowledge and clinical skills in a speciality of your choice. It is also a fantastic opportunity to travel and experience different healthcare systems.

This is a self-directed learning module and students are required to arrange the elective themselves. Each year, the overseas electives vary from third world mission hospitals to major teaching hospitals in Australia, America and Canada. Many students also choose to spend at least part of their elective in N. Ireland or elsewhere in the UK.



Dentistry - Clinical Attachments/Placements During the Undergraduate Dental Programme

In Year 1, students have a placement in clinics in the Community Dental Service and in the dental hospital to observe and learn about clinical practice.

In Second Year, Students undertake a clinical assistantship, attend a clinical placement and assist final year students treating patients in the dental hospital.  They also have an LA placement where they give local anaesthetic, under the supervision of clinicians, to patients in the dental hospital.

From Years 3-5, students spend more than 60% of their time in clinic placement in the dental hospital where they treat their own patients under the supervision of clinical teachers.  The programme is based on a work-place learning model with skills attainment and development recorded on an ipad system LIFTUPP. 

In third year, these include:

  • clinical placements  in surgical, cardiology, endocrinology, vascular, hepatology, ENT and out-patient clinics to learn about the practice of medicine;
  • two different dental specialist practices  – an orthodontic practice and an oral surgery practice – to learn about the role of dental specialists;
  • a placement in a General Dental Practice to learn about the role of the dental hygienist.

In fourth year, students have a paediatric GA hospital placement and under supervision have the opportunity to undertake simple extractions as well as a placement in an Oral Surgery specialist practice.

Across fourth and fifth year, students have placements in Paediatric Outreach clinics (Beech Hall and  Carlisle) where, under the supervision of a clinical teacher, they treat a range of paediatric patients.

Final year (fifth year) students are placed in a Restorative Outreach clinic where they treat their own patients in a general practice setting.  They also have a placement in a local general dental practice where they learn about the role of dental team members and about practice management.


Other Opportunities

In addition, our undergraduate students have the opportunity to apply for Summer Studentships to undertake a summer project, lasting 6-8 weeks in one of our Research or Education Centres.  Undergraduate Medical and Dental students also have the opportunity to undertake a one year Intercalated degree programme at Masters or Undergraduate level.

Placement in the USA


The University of Nevada (USA), has been offering placement opportunities to students from the Centre for Biomedical Sciences Education for more than a decade. There are currently 5 Queen's University Belfast students in the University of Nevada, Reno on placement for the current academic year 2015-16.

Placement in USA

Students on placement are assigned to an academic mentor/supervisor and work as research assistants in a laboratory.  They receive a monthly stipend from the University of Nevada and are advised to take medical healthcare insurance.  The students report to their mentor and participate fully in the research programme to which they have been assigned.  They are registered with the University of Nevada for the year and are expected to work on a full time basis commensurate with vacation arrangements within the University of Nevada.

The placement year is a non-credit bearing year and Queen's University Belfast do not have any academic requirements of the student during that year.  Nevertheless, the students sign a code of conduct which enforces the fact that they are representing Queen's internationally on their placement year and that exemplary behaviour and excellent work ethics are expected. Students who have successfully completed the placement and who participate in the briefing session to prospective students on their return are eligible for the award of Degree Plus. 


  • Hands-on research experience/lab skills
  • ‘Test the water’ for future career decisions
  • Experience of working/studying in another country
  • International reference for CV
  • Interpersonal skills and development
  • Enhanced profile for applying to study at PhD level at home or abroad/employment in USA
  • Employers favour people with broad experience, especially international work experience

Application Process

Students are required to attend a briefing session on the Programme during Level 2 and are invited to submit a written application during Level 2 comprising a letter of interest, current academic transcript and an academic CV with 2 referees.  The Centre shortlists the students based on academic standing, performance and their applications for interview.  Following interview, successful candidates’ CVs are forwarded to the University of Nevada.

After accepting an offer, students are guided through the necessary procedures for obtaining visas and other necessary documentation for the year-long placement.  They may only participate in the programme after final approval from their Advisor of Studies.  (Students taking examinations during the resit period in Level 2 (for any reason) are ineligible to participate in the programme). The Centre will assist with return flight travel costs up to £700 per student.

The USA Placement Programme is co-ordinated by Professor Karen McCloskey in the School's Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (


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