5 Ways to See if Anesthesiology is a Good Fit for You.
Anesthesiology is continuing to get more and more competitive. If you are reading this article, then you have been reviewing your grades, USMLE/COMLEX Step scores, class rank, and research to figure out if you are a good candidate to get into anesthesiology residency. You want to know “What are my chances?”
I think that before you look at how good a candidate you are, you should find out if anesthesiology is a good fit for you in the first place. Anesthesiology is a great fit for me, but it might not be a good fit for you. But how would you know?
How do you know if Anesthesiology is right for you?
When some medical school students are looking into different specialties, it is not uncommon to have medical school students ask two questions 1) how much money do they make, and 2) what is their typical day like. It is a screening test for sure, but it doesn’t really give you a good view of what working as an anesthesiologist (or any other specialty) is like.
There are better ways to see if a career in Anesthesiology is a good fit for you. (Notice, I said “career” and not “residency”. Residency only lasts four years. Your career should last decades. You want a good fit that will last for a career.) I recommend starting some inventory testing, do some digging into the profession, then doing some shadowing, a first rotation in anesthesiology, followed by an audition rotation somewhere you want to attend residency. Through these five steps, you can see if Anesthesiology would be a good fit for you.
1. Inventory Testing
Inventory testing is simply just seeing what things you like and don’t like. Some things are pretty evident to you, but others might not be. Taking a personal inventory will help you to reveal things about yourself you might not have known. It is a low threat way to narrow down your choices. I think that some students are afraid of taking these types of tests, because their first pick in a specialty might not show up.
What if Anesthesiology doesn’t show up on your inventory testing, should you even consider? Sure. You might be very successful despite the testing. However, you might find a specialty that is a better fit and you will be much happier. What is a good fit for your friends, might not be a good fit for you.
American Academy of Medical Colleges (AAMC) has a page which helps you choose your specialty: through
The AAMC also has the The Medical Specialty Preference Inventory. (You will need to sign in to use this Inventory Testing)
- This test can help you to narrow down your choices to a few specialties that might be a good fit for you.
- You might end up finding another specialty that is a better fit, or it might confirm that Anesthesiology is the way to go.
The AAMC – Careers in Medicine (CiM) website is another resource for you to explore different career options.
- It is a good programs that helps medical school students with mentoring and resources to help you find your specialty match.
2. Dig into the Profession
Once you see that Anesthesiology might be a good fit for your personality and preferences, then it is time to dig in to the specialty and see what it has to offer. Instead of seeking out anesthesiologists to shadow, or while you are on a rotation, spend a little time online. Student Doctor Network (SDN) has group of articles called 20 Questions. These interviews ask different specialists the same 20 questions and see how they respond. What do they like? What do they not like? This is a great way to get a one on one with an anesthesiologist even before you start interacting with them in person.They have interviewed several anesthesiologists, and they can be found here:
- 20 Questions: Sapna Kudchadkar, MD, Anesthesiology
- 20 Questions: Michelle Au, MD, Author
- 20 Questions: Christopher G. Choukalas, MD, MS, Anesthesiology
- 20 Questions: William Baker, M.D. Anesthesiology
The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) also has a webpage devoted to Choosing Anesthesia as a Career, which is another great resource for you.
3. Anesthesiology Shadowing
Now that you know you are a good fit for anesthesiology and have read a few interviews of anesthesiologists, it is time to meet some anesthesiologists and see them in action.
Actually seeing what an anesthesiologist does throughout the day is a good introductory way to view the specialty from behind the curtain. Many times, medical school students seek out shadowing opportunities aside form their current rotations during their 3rd year of medical school. You can do that, but you should also try and find some opportunities while you are on a clinical rotation, after your other duties are fulfilled.
When you are on your Surgery or OB/GYN rotation, take some time to talk with the anesthesiologist with whom you are working to find out why they went into the specialty. Ask some of the questions that you have. Why did they choose anesthesiology and would they do it again?
If you want to set up a separate shadowing opportunity during your 1st or 2nd year of medical school, or while you are on another medical school rotation, that is fine. You might already know you want to do a rotation as a medical student to see what it is like, and if you do, forgo the additional shadowing, its time to get down to business.
4. Your First Rotation in Anesthesiology
You will really want to try out working in anesthesiology before you commit to it. Some medical school students are nervous about doing a “real rotation” in anesthesiology the first time because they want to make a good impression. They are afraid of not knowing what is going on, or missing an intubation. If you are really anxious about those things, then go ahead and do a rotation somewhere that doesn’t have a residency you want to go to.
I would just recommend diving in and doing a rotation. Most anesthesiology residency programs which have medical school rotations provide introductory lectures throughout the rotation, which is another cool way to see if you even like the subject matter. You will also learn more about anesthesia so that you can have a better experience for your audition rotation.
What is a good book to read? I would be remiss if I didn’t place a shameless plug for my book Anesthesia Made Easy: The survival guide to make your first anesthesia rotation a success. I wrote this book for med students who are starting out on anesthesia. It is a quick read and one of the readers told me he was able to answer 95% of the pimp questions in the OR with information in the book.
5. Your Audition Rotation in Anesthesiology
You will want to do at least one (if not all your anesthesiology rotations) at a location that has an anesthesiology residency. This allows you to more exposure to residents (they will be spending more time in the OR than attending) and you will be able to see what life as a resident is like. It is a great way to do a “working interview” at a residency location.
I wrote guest post on SDN on how to make the most of your anesthesiology audition rotation. It is a quick read and will give you some valuable information on making the most of your time at a potential residency location.
Book for Your Anesthesiology Audition Rotation
Still don’t own a copy? I wrote this book for you. The reason I wrote Anesthesia Made Easy was because the basic anesthesia books are just too big and have too much information for the new anesthesia trainee. It is one part textbook and one part survival guide, it is a high yield book that will get you started on your career in anesthesiology. Anesthesia Made Easy is available as either a paperback or Kindle version from Amazon.com.
This is a classic for medical school students like you. It gives you information on all the different medical specialties and tips for applying to the different specialties. This book (an earlier edition obviously) was one of my favorite books in medical school. If you are still tying to figure out what specialty to choose, or if you are applying for residency, Iserson’s will give you vital information to help you in your quest. It is available on Amazon.com only as a paperback.
The Successful Match 2017: Rules for Success in the Residency Match is a good resource Many reviewers on amazon.com found this resource helpful. The Successful Match is a full service book that talks about preparing your application such as the Curriculum Vitae (CV) and Letters of Recommendation and goes on to talk about Interview Questions and the actual Interview day. It comes as a paperback.
Thanks for reading the article. Now take some time and see if Anesthesiology would be a good fit for you. I would hate for you to figure out that Anesthesiology is not a good fit for you after you are a resident. Also, I don’t want you to miss out on a great speciality that is a good fit for you. Make the most of the time you have now and the resources on this page, to help you dig into the specialty of anesthesiology and give it a go.