Day in the Life of a Resident & Core Attributes: Anaesthesia

Residency Application Specialists

Anaesthesia is a varied, and at times immensely challenging, specialty. Whilst you’ll already understand it, reflecting on what a typical day is like as a resident – and thus the kind of attributes that set you up for success – is a useful activity before your interviews.

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Day in the Life of an Anaesthesia Resident

The following is realistic for a PGY-3; expect less independence in earlier years.

Expect to arrive by 6-6.30am. Starts in anaesthesia are up there with being the earliest across residency programs, as you will need to be ready in the morning to set up in the OR. As an example, a day of cardiac cases could involve drips, central line, Swan, and TEE, whilst orthopaedics cases might involve ultrasound, femoral catheters, etc. After setting up, there may be some form of education.

6.30am: Morning teaching. Here, expect to have a case briefly presented, with core learnings. Cases may be presented by other residents, or at times more senior staff. You will need to become confident in presenting to others, and in approaching new cases with a sensible and logical approach.

7am: Meet the morning patient. You’ll need to take a history and complete an examination, as well as ensuring that your findings tally with the notes. By 7.25am you will be bringing the patient in, and making standard checks.

7:30am: First case of the day starts. Expect to be in the OR from now until midday or so, with perhaps one break as well in which to grab breakfast and briefly relax. Let’s assume you have one case that finishes around 9, and that you then set up for another case which begins at 10.30am. You will therefore need to set up again, and then once again interview the patient and conduct a physical examination as appropriate. You’ll need to be confident on the case, which means being able to quickly digest their notes.

12:00: It’s likely that the second case is still in process, so your attending might relieve you so that you are able to have lunch. There may be some form of teaching over lunch – perhaps a journal article club, for example – especially if you didn’t have morning teaching. If an hour is set aside for lunch, this will most likely be the case. Otherwise, expect a relatively efficient half hour lunch, perhaps discussing interesting cases with other residents.

12:30: You’re back in the OR and it’s time to prepare for the next case. Once again, you’ll need to set up correctly, then assess the patient beforehand.

3pm: A brief afternoon brea, relieved by the attending.

4pm: Your attending relieves you again, and you now attend your daily lecture. This will be an hour long presentation from an attending – in this case, your lecture is on neuromuscular blockers. The lectures are designed to cover content efficiently and allow you to participate in the learning as a group.

5pm: You’ll need to check whether pre-ops are assigned to you. Assuming there’s nothing, you can be on your way home. However, you’ll still need to check your cases for the next day, and discuss them with the attending beforehand.

Typical weeks for residents might be made up of full days in the OR on Monday, Tuesday and Weds, holding room day on Thursday from 6am to 2pm, OR on Friday, then a 24 hour call on Saturday.

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Core Attributes of Anaesthesia Residents

Anaesthesia demands calm in the face of intense pressure – perhaps more so than almost any other specialty. You must therefore reflect on how you have demonstrated this during your time at medical school, and outside of it. You will also need to be highly adaptable, with a varied caseload and unfamiliar presentations, meaning that you’ll need to be able to adjust and react quickly. Once again, reflect on how this applies to you, and how you can demonstrate this from your experiences thus far. Hours are relatively long, so ensure that you are able to show resilience and good time management skills.

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