Hack Your Intern YearHack Your Anesthesia Intern Year

Congratulations on graduating from medical school and getting into an anesthesiology residency!   I know you can not wait to get back into the OR and start your “real” training as an anesthesiologist.  However, you will use the training you earn this year in your future career more than you can imagine.  At the end of these 12 months, you will finally be in your Clinical Anesthesia (CA) Years.

It is easy to get into the mindset of just trying to survive the Intern year.   But there are a few things you can do to make the year a little more palatable and get you ready for being a CA-1 at the same time.

There are 3 areas you can work on today to prepare you for your training ahead.

1.  Knock out the USMLE/COMLEX Step 3

There is the old saying of “2 months, 2 weeks, 2 pencils” back we when took the exam on paper.   The theory was that you just had to show up to take the Step 3 exam and you were sure to pass.

The problem with this statement is that there will be some residents who fail Step 3.

Why do they fail it?

They don’t study and/or they don’t take it seriously.

While you are learning to do all the normal “doctor stuff” like treat myocardial infarctions, diagnose acute stroke with CT, and management of patients in the ED, do yourself a favor and take the USMLE/COMLEX Step 3.  The further you get from your intern year into your clinical anesthesia years, the harder this test becomes, because you become more specialized.

Take a look at our article Hack Your Step 3 Exam to find recommendations and resources to help you crush this exam the first time you take it.

2.  Get Ready the Anesthesiology In-Training Exam (ITE)

This is the annual exam given by the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) that measure your progress and help you prepare for your future Basic and Advanced Exams.

Most anesthesiology residency programs do not have minimal scores that you have to obtain for Interns, but you want to make a good showing on your first ITE anyhow.  This exam is like taking a full length board exam for the anesthesiology boards, so take it seriously.  You can look at our article on how to prepare for the Anesthesiology ITE here

You want to start building a strong anesthesia knowledge base during your intern year.   At the end of your CA-1 year you will be taking the Basic Exam for the Anesthesiology Boards.

How do you build that anesthesia knowledge base?

I used three resources during my Intern year to help build my anesthesia base knowledge.

Stoelting’s Anesthesia and Co-Existing Disease, 6e  This is a great mashup between Harrison’s and an Advanced Anesthesia text.  The book will present a medical problem, like Aortic Stenosis, tell you the symptoms, physiology and treatment of it, then you get a paragraph or two on how to approach a patient with the disease for anesthesia.  The beauty of this book is that it will “trick” you into reading about the medical/surgical side of a problem, then will reward you with some anesthesia knowledge.  Use this book to read up on treatments which will help you during your intern year and the anesthesia piece, which will help you when you get to the OR.  It is available as a hardcover and a e-textbook.

Faust’s Anesthesiology Review.  I love this book.  This is an awesome book to expand your anesthesiology knowledge.  It provides 1 to 3 page chapters on topics that allow you to do some quick reading while you have some down time.  How cool is it to have some focused reading on a topic that you will see again on your boards?  You could read a chapter or two a night (4-6 pages) and finish the entire book your intern year.  It will help to develop your depth and breadth of anesthesia knowledge that you will need for your exams and for your career.  It is available as a paperback or as e-textbook.


Hall Question BookHall Question Book.  Start getting some more anesthesiology knowledge into your noggin.  When you are on your pediatric rotation as an intern, do pediatric anesthesia questions to reinforce what you are seeing.  When you are on your OB rotation as an OB intern, then do OB anesthesiology questions.  This will help you learn the subject matter for your rotation and see how to apply it to being an anesthesiologist.  It is available as a paperback or as kindle.


3.  Get Ready for the Operating Room

I wrote my first anesthesia book Anesthesia Made Easy for the new anesthesia trainee in mind.  It is one part introductory text and one part survival guide.  If will help get your CA-1 year off to a great start.

You will be able to read through the book quickly and it will help remind you of life in the OR.  You might be doing an Intern year that does not have any Anesthesiology Rotations, so reading through this book will get your gears turning again.

Besides Anesthesia Made Easy, pick a basic anesthesia text to get you reading going.

There are die hard fans of Clinical Anesthesiology  or Basic of Anesthesia (aka Baby Miller).  I read  Basic of Anesthesia (4th edition) cover to cover when I was a MS4, but I used Clinical Anesthesiology while an anesthesiology resident.

The new basic book on the market is Clinical Anesthesia Fundamentals (Baby Barash)    I have a copy that I started reading through to see how it compares to the other two and I have been happy with it.

It is hard to go wrong with any three of these.  Pick one and start reading it when you have some down time.  Even though not everything will make sense, when you transition to the OR, concepts will pop out at you and the reading will be more meaningful.

Make the Most of Your Intern Year

Most anesthesiology residents just want to survive their Intern year so that can get on with leaning about anesthesiology.  If you follow the three broad areas above, you will be prepared for your CA-1 year.  The point of this article is not to make you feel better just by reading it.  The point to start taking action.

Take a moment and read through the articles about Hack Your Step 3 and the How to Prepare for the ITE and start building your anesthesia knowledge base with one of the above recommended books. (If you wanted to buy just one book during your intern year … besides Anesthesia Made Easy, I would choose Stoelting’s Anesthesia and Co-Existing Disease, 6e.  It will give you a great jump start on your reading.