You’ve made the decision to pursue anesthesiology. Great! So… now what? What should you be doing? What are the pitfalls for applicants? Having gone through the process, here are some basic things to consider.
- Consider your timeline: Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) opens in mid-September, interviews from October to February, rank order list (ROL) opens in mid-January with the deadline in mid-February, Match Day in mid-March.
- Meet with someone in the anesthesiology department (program director, mentor, etc.) to discuss your goals.
- Become a medical student member of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). Attend conferences if you can.
- Have an updated CV at all times. While it will help tremendously on ERAS, it also comes in handy when applying for research positions.
- Decide which programs you’re interested in. Categorical and/or advanced? Urban or rural? FREIDA Online is one of the absolute best resources to use when researching programs in any speciality.
- Register for anesthesiology electives (at least two months worth) and have your grades back prior to beginning interviews. These were the most discussed rotations in my interviews. While the topic of away rotations is important for orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, dermatology, etc… it’s not an implicit requirement for anesthesiology.
- If possible, try to get ACLS/BLS certification prior to mid-September. There’s a place to indicate if you’re certified on ERAS, and you’re going to need certification for residency anyways.
- It’s never too early to start writing your personal statement. Needless to say… edit, re-edit, and then edit the thing all over again. Ask friends and faculty for their opinions – “Does this personal statement convey who I am?”
- Register for Step 2 CS and get it out of the way ASAP. If you have some time off prior to ERAS opening, knock out Step 2 CK as well. I took mine in September. If you had a not-so-ideal Step 1 score, take Step 2 CK before applying!
- Gathering letters of recommendation (LORs) was perhaps the most difficult part of the application process as two of my letter-writers were off-service or vacationing in the time leading up to ERAS opening. You’ll need at least three letters. One of these should be from your anesthesiology program director. I had three from anesthesiologists and one from a pediatrician. Decide who will write them, and start asking well in advance!
My interview season spanned from late October to mid-January (plan your MS4 rotations accordingly). At each program, I had 3 to 7 interviews (anywhere from 5 minutes to 25 minutes a piece) which were all incredibly laid back. Sometimes a little too laid back with topics like iOS vs. Android, the shortcomings of Java, McLaren vs. Ferrari’s racing heritage, etc. These were great conversations!
Before the interview day, visit the program’s website to learn about what’s going on in the department. Also, read over your application as interview questions often stem from things you’ve written. Some topics which seemed to always come up:
- What are your opinions about certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) and anesthesiology assistants (AAs)?
- Anesthesiology often times lacks continuity of patient care. How do you feel about that?
- If anesthesiology didn’t exist, what residency would you pursue?
- Tell me about a case you found interesting.
- Tell me about your hobbies.
- Interested in pursuing a fellowship? Academics or private practice? Rural or urban?
- If you see an attending or colleague behaving unprofessionally (ie, self-administering fentanyl), how do you respond?
In general, convey how “trainable” you are. There’s an incredibly steep learning curve once you start anesthesia cases, so programs are looking for residents who can manage this.
Most importantly, take notes after each interview day! What did you like/not like about the program? What “vibes” did you get from your experience there? Often times, these gut instincts are underrated but play a pivotal role in determining where you’ll be happy.
My only advice: don’t over think it! The match process favors the applicant, so take advantage of that! Rank programs you’ll be happy at because you could theoretically match to any of them. With that said, don’t rank only your very top choices either; you’ll risk not matching anywhere. I’ve heard ranking at least 7 programs is “safe.”
Once the ROL web page goes live in mid-January, applicants can modify and re-certify the list as many times as they want prior to the deadline in mid-February. Refer back to your post-interview notes for guidance. Additionally, unless there’s a very good reason for modification, don’t continuously adjust items on your list – your gut instinct helped generate the first list. There’s a reason for that.
If you’ve adequately prepared for the residency application process, it’s actually a lot of fun! Meeting other anesthesiology applicants only reaffirmed my notion that this field is full of happy, laid back, and incredibly bright individuals! Interviews are like mini-vacations to different parts of the country too.
Best of luck to everyone! Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below.