How to Study Anesthesia On The Move

Gone are The Days of Lectures


When you were in medical school or anesthesia school, you had dedicated classroom time.  This gave you the ability to attend lectures, study for exams, and learn about medicine and/or anesthesia.

Most of your time is spent in the Operating Room (OR) on various rotations during the clinical part of your training,   The lectures from here on out, will be at zero dark thirty.  (Ok, not really, but most places have lectures at sometime between 6am and 7am.)  If you are lucky, there will be some rotations that have lecture in the afternoon, but that is rare.

While you may have a lecture or two a week, most of your studying is done on your own.

Your time is tight, especially when you have call, weekend duties, and long days in the OR.  You will have to make the most of the time that you do have to learn as much as you can.  It is important to study because you have either anesthesia exams or Board Certification waiting for you at the end of your training.

What about Studying in the OR?

Hey, if all you are doing is “just sitting there” monitoring the patient, why can’t you use those long stretches of time to study?   You may meet some other students and residents who do this, but I don’t recommend studying in the OR for several reasons.

  1. It distracts from patient care.  There are times during a case when you have to look something up, read up on a disease condition, or look through the patient chart.  This happens, but it can still be a distraction.
  2. Even if you are paying attention, it looks like you are distracted.  Part of our job is to not only be observant, but also have other perceive we are observant.  If every time the surgeon looks over to you and you have your face in a book, it gives the appearance that you are not focused on the case at hand.
  3. From a completely selfish perspective, when you study in the OR you have to constantly task shift.  (Task shifting is when you are focused on Task A, then get distracted by Task B.  When Task B is finish, you then have to shift back to the Task A.)  Every time you change the task you are concentrating on (called a task shift) it decreases your productivity and reduces your focus.  You have to re-focus and get “geared up” again to the task at hand.  It is much better if you can study, uninterrupted for at least 25 minutes before a task shift.

So if studying in the OR is not feasable, what can you do?

You will have to learn while on the move.

How to Study On the Move

Because your time is short during your clinical rotations, it is important to make the most of it.  Once you have your basic anesthesia books in place, you should consider adding a few others that will help you 1) study at home, 2) study for taking care of patients and 3) get ready for your anesthesia exams.  The books below are good to have in your library to add to your training.

1.  Studying At Home

During  your anesthesia training, you will be studying on your own time.  Making the most of this time is key to increasing your anesthesia and knowledge.  You probably already have one of The Basic Anesthesia Books like Clinical Anesthesia, Baby Miller  or Baby Barash  and you had to buy two copies of Anesthesia Made Easy, because you loved it so much you read it till it fell apart.  (Just kidding … you bought the Kindle version, so you are good )

You want to build the habit of reading about anesthesia at home.  What you read is not as important as making the habit of reading.  Simply start by choosing of the basic texts and start reading.  (Your program might have a required text … if they do, start there.)

Tailor your studying to fit your rotation.  Read about a general anesthesia topic when you are on your general rotation.  Before you start your OB rotation, read the OB chapter.  Some of the information in the text may not make much sense when you first read it.  As you start using the information in the operating room, it will become more and more clear.

2.  Reading up on Patients The Night Before Your Case

One way you will be leaning on the move is through reading up on cases the day before you are in the OR.  In most training programs, you will get your assignment the night before, so that you will have the patient information and they type of case you will be doing.  At many institutions, you will access to an electronic medical record (EMR), and can look up not only the schedule, but also each specific patient information.

This is a great opportunity to learn about disease processes and anesthesia techniques.

Especially when you are staring out, it is helpful to not only have a basic anesthesia book, but I also recommend the following books (in order of descending importance):

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, tell you the symptoms, physiology and its treatment.  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.  It is available as a hardcover and a e-textbook.


Anesthesiologist’s Manual of Surgical Procedures.  Great book to help you get around the OR.  Each type of case talks about surgical considerations (which includes a summary of the procedure) and anesthesia considerations (preoperative, intraoperative, and  postoperative) – all placed in charts.  Don’t read this book start to end.  (The first chapter is “Craniotomy for Intracranial Aneurysms”.  That is too much when you are first starting out.)   Start with something like page 389 “ laparoscopic cholecystectomy” or page 605 “laparoscopic appendectomy” which are some good starting cases.  Obviously, you can use this book to look up cases that you will be doing the next to see how to plan you anesthetic.  Anesthesiologist’s Manual of Surgical Procedures is available as hardcover or in the Kindle format.

3.  Reading In Between Cases While on Call

Make the most of your time and try to squeeze in some studying between OR cases and while you are in the hospital on call.

The books that follow are easy to pick up, get some studying done, and put down.

 Clinical Anesthesia Procedures of Mass General  This is a gem of a book that is great to have in your OR bag.  The size is such that you can carry it with you.  You can use it to look up anesthesia management information quickly.  It also serves as a great book to do some in-depth reading while you have down time on your rotation.  The Mass General book is well organized into chapters related to subject matter.  When you are on your OB anesthesia rotation, read the OB chapter.  When you are getting ready to go to your Pediatric anesthesia rotation, read the Pedi Chapter.  It is a good reading book that travels well.  Unfortunately, it is only available as a paperback.

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.  It feels great to read a few pages and finish a topic.   A cool way to use the Faust book is like a “night cap”.  Read a chapter or two (2-6 pages) and get some anesthesia knowledge in your noggin before you go to sleep. It is available as a paperback or as e-textbook.


Hall Question BookHall Question Book s a great book to have when you are getting tired of reading and what to see how much you are really learning.  Each question has an answer explanation in the back. It is really hard to go wrong with this book.  This was one of the books in my top 7 anesthesia books for trainees.  This will help to break up the monotony of reading and also will give you feedback as you go.  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.  It is available as a paperback or as kindle.


Thanks for Stopping By

I hope you have found this article helpful.  You can structure a studying method that fits with your schedule with a little ingenuity and the right tools.   If you have not picked up  Anesthesia Made Easy, then do yourself a favor and buy it today.  If you had to pick just one other book, check out Clinical Anesthesia Procedures of Mass General.  I am on my second copy of this book, because it got worn out from all the reading and travel back and forth to the hospital.

Looking for More Articles?

Check out the menus in the right sidebar for some more articles that you will find helpful.