Specialty Secrets: Anesthesiology

Name: Dr. Charlie of #LifeofaMedStudent
Specialty: Anesthesiology Resident
Undergraduate degree and University: Indiana State University with a Degree in Chemistry
Medical school Attended: Indiana University School of Medicine, 2013
Residency Program: Currently in an Anesthesia residency program in the Midwest, USA
 
Why did you choose your specialty?: There was a time when I really was interested in family medicine, but I fell in love with the flow of the OR and the hustle of anesthesia. I love the fast-paced, hands-on action that anesthesia provides – where nurses and surgeons depend on you to provide efficient, but safe medical care. The patients can range from the healthy to the very sick, and you develop a skill set in anesthesia to take care of them all. I also found that my personality was a great fit in anesthesia, where you have just moments to make a great impression and reassure anxious patients. Once I realized that was a satisfying substitute to the benefits of long-term continuity of care that a family practice provides, I couldn’t go back to the long, slow days in outpatient clinic.
As a career, anesthesia has a lot of great benefits and generally provides a favorable lifestyle and good-great pay. When I go home at the end of the day, I get to turn my pager off and leave work mentally behind – an ability that only a few specialties truly allow. You can read more about how I chose anesthesia here: https://lifeofamedstudent.com/2016/07/21/how-i-became-an-anesthesiologist/
Where do you currently work?: Currently, I am a senior anesthesiology resident at a large academic center in Midwest.
 
What are your daily tasks in your workplace?As an anesthesia resident, my day can vary, depending on the type of case and which hospital I’m currently covering. Generally, I arrive at about 0615 and set up my anesthesia machine and operating room. I’ve generally looked up the case/patient the day before and am now formulating my anesthetic plan: general vs. sedation, what additional IVs, central lines, art lines, nerve blocks, pain management techniques are needed – each tailored individually to the specific patient and operation. I then go see the patient and ensure they are medically optimized for surgery and there have been no changes in their medical conditions that would warrant additional work-up/diagnosis/treatment before surgery. I then finalize my plan, let the support staff (nurses/techs/etc) know, and clear the patient to come back to the OR.
 
The rest of the day depends on the cases I have scheduled. I see to the patient’s care through the OR and into the PACU. Usually I’ll do 2-3 cases a day and am finished around 3-5pm. I take some form of call about once a week, which is either a 24 hour shift or a “late shift” which is designated stay until most ORs are finished, usually around 7-9pm. Overall, I usually work about 60-70 hours a week delivering anesthesia care.
What is one aspect of your job you wish you could change?: Anesthesia has a great lifestyle but the one aspect that can be frustrating is you never know when you’ll be done. I know most days it’ll be between 3-5pm, but a case can run longer than expected, or an “add on” placed in your room, which you have little control over – especially as a resident.
 
Craziest experience you’ve had within your field?I’ve done some pretty massive trauma cases as and anesthesia resident in our trauma hospital. The biggest of which I wrote about here: https://lifeofamedstudent.com/2016/08/03/the-worst-trauma-ive-personally-been-in/
 
What are your thoughts on the USMLE Step Exams?Find what works for you and stick with it. If things aren’t going as well as you’d hope, find a new plan and don’t be afraid at that point to try new study techniques. A mistake students often make is sticking with a study approach that isn’t working for them.
 
What was your favorite study technique in medical school?I use a 50-50 technique: half my time reviewing/reading/taking notes over material, and half my time simply knocking out as many practice questions as I could. The number one piece of advice I have for study improvement is to simply do as many practice questions as you can!
 
Have you conducted any research during your career?I have done minimal research, only about 2 months worth as an undergraduate. It was on alternative medicine therapies.
 
Final advice for current medical students?You are already in medical school. You’ve already proven you are smart enough to be a doctor. It’s now the hoops of medical training you have to jump through to make it all the way to the end that matter. Keep your confidence and when things don’t always shine, just keep working hard!
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