It’s customary for medical students interested in a particular field to enroll in “electives” to get experience, understand the workflow, obtain recommendation letters for residency applications, etc. I get asked all the time about how to “stand out” on anesthesia electives, so here are some tips!
If you have the intention of getting a recommendation letter out of your rotation, it’s best to schedule an informal meeting with the program director ahead of time. You’ll likely work with different attendings/fellows/residents each day. By asking early, staff will have concrete examples to include in their cumulative feedback. Typically, the recommendation letters are a collective effort comprised of comments from most people you work with.
Until people actually do an anesthesia elective, they don’t realize how fast-paced this field can be. Turning over a room, transporting patients between the pre-operative area, post-anesthesia care unit (PACU), and intensive care unit (ICU), writing a pre-operative note, getting back to the room with the patient, placing necessary lines/monitors, getting through the induction process safely… this happens very quickly! Often times medical students don’t really understand what their role is during this frenzy.
For longer surgeries, there will invariably be a period of “maintenance” which is usually less stressful. This is the time I enjoy teaching students about monitors, medications, surgical considerations, mechanical ventilation, etc. Many equate performing a general anesthetic to flying an airplane: things are fast-paced during take-off (induction) and landing (emergence), but fairly stable during autopilot (maintenance). Save most of your questions for when things are idle!
You can hear some of these tips and more in my YouTube video below!
Drop me a comment with questions below! 🙂