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Five Ways to Make Your Audition Rotation in Anesthesia (or Other Specialty!) a Success

Created August 21, 2015 by Dr. Jeff Steiner
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It is that time of year again. Medical school students across the country are preparing applications for residency and pursuing audition rotations at residencies they are hoping to woo into an interview and hopefully to match into their program.

Any audition rotation is a challenge. This is especially true for the anesthesia audition rotation. For medical school students who look great on paper, the audition rotation can either confirm they are a great candidate or confirm the program should not interview/rank them. For medical school students who do not have a stellar record, the audition rotation can open up doors.

The anesthesia audition rotation is a time for you to learn about the anesthesia residency and for the anesthesia residency to learn more about you. As much as it is about improving your chances of getting into that residency, it is also about confirming you want to spend four years of training at that particular residency.

The audition rotation can help you in several ways:

1. It can help you obtain letters of recommendation from the anesthesia program.
2. It can help you get your foot in the door for an interview.
3. It may increase the chances beginning ranked higher on the match rank list.
4. It confirms that anesthesiology is a good fit for you.

How do you make the most of your anesthesia audition rotation? There are five things you can do to make your anesthesia audition rotation a success.

1. Don’t let your audition rotation be the first time you have exposure to anesthesiology.

An audition rotation should be done after you have confirmed that you want to go into anesthesiology. Showing up on an audition rotation at a residency where you think you may want to spend the next four years of your training without knowing if you want to even do the specialty anesthesiology is a bad idea.

There are several ways to see if anesthesiology is a good fit for you. A good starting point is to take the American Academy of Medical Colleges (AAMC) personality test as a screening inventory to see if you would even be a good fit for anesthesiology. You can also spend some time shadowing an anesthesiologist in your area to see what the day-to-day life is like of an anesthesiologist. But don’t let shadowing be your only experience in anesthesiology before doing an audition rotation.

One option is to utilize your surgery rotation to get exposure to anesthesiology. After your surgery rotation work is done, spend some time with an anesthesiologist. Try to get some experience with the basic procedures of intubation and starting IVs if possible.

If you have some rotations to spare, consider doing your first anesthesia rotation either at your second choice for anesthesiology residency or at a location that does not have a residency program. This way when you arrive at your number one choice for residency, you will have experience as a medical student on an anesthesiology rotation.

How do you know which program will be your first choice? Do a little research on websites such as scutwork.com and through the forums here at SDN to look at the area of the country where you would like to train, the type of program you are looking for, and what residents have to say about the experience. I have included these and a number of other resources at AnesthesiaMadeEasy.com/SDN so that you have all the links in one place.

2. When you are on your audition rotation behave as if you are on a working interview… because you are.

Be about the business of being the best anesthesiology medical school student you can be. Not only are you learning about anesthesiology and evaluating the program, you are also being evaluated by the residency program as well.

Your reputation begins even before you arrive. You are already building your reputation, with your interactions with the staff and faculty that you work with to set up the rotation, good or bad. Anesthesiology is a small specialty and you never know which residents and faculty know their counterparts at other residencies.

I know you have heard the cliche “Show up early, stay late”, but this still holds true for your anesthesia audition rotation. If you have the ability to take overnight call, do it. Residency program directors know that as a medical school student trying to get into their residency, you will be on your best behavior and the hardest working you may ever be. If you slack off, it will show the program that the “best” you can offer is slacking.

Some anesthesia rotations are considered a “blow off” rotation by the medical school students who are from the same program. Some may be medical school students going into other specialties who are looking for a cushy rotation. Don’t let them rub off on you. You need to put your best effort forward to show the program what you have to offer.

While some other medical school students may be on the rotation to get airway experience, you are there to learn how to be an anesthesiology resident. Unless you have a lecture you need to get to, try to finish every case you start. That is what you will be doing in residency and what you will be doing as an attending.

There are three concepts to keep in mind: a) If you are given a project to do while on the rotation, do your very best on it; b) show the program that you have an enthusiasm for anesthesiology training; c) make sure you are on time to every lecture, every time.

3. During your audition rotation get to know the anesthesiology residents.

The anesthesiology residents who are actually working in the program will be able to tell you the good, bad, and ugly. How does this information compare to your research? Q4 call at one program is very different than Q4 call at another program (i.e. if you take call while on your rotation, you will be able to see what it is like for yourself.)

What do the residents think of the leadership in the department? Anesthesiology chief residents change every year, but more than likely the program director and chair of the department will be the same when you will be a resident.

Are the residents generally happy? Are they getting their case numbers they need to graduate? There are no perfect programs and remember, you may be catching a resident on a bad day, so keep the outlier remarks in mind.

You have the opportunity to learn more about anesthesiology and the specific residency program than you can ever learn online. Take advantage of it.

4. Spend time with key faculty members during your time including the program director and chair of the department.

As good as it is to get to know the residents, it is imperative to get to meet the people who will be making the decision for you to interview and possibly match with the program: faculty anesthesiologists, the program director, and the chair of the department.

Faculty Anesthesiologists

While you are on your audition rotation, it is important to obtain some letters of recommendation from faculty anesthesiologists with whom you spend time. You will need to spend several days with the same faculty member for them to get to know you. If the faculty comes in to give the resident a lunch break, stay in the room to get to know him/her. This is a great opportunity to have some time alone with your faulty. (There is a fine line between kissing up and being engaged… you will have to make that distinction for yourself.) One of the faculty you should get to know during this time is the physician in charge of the medical school students. It will give you the opportunity to show them what you are made of. Remember to ask questions and learn all you can from potentially your future faculty.

The Residency Program Director

Try to spend several days during your month with the residency program director in the operating room. If their schedule is such that you are unable to so, then be sure to make an appointment with them to get to know them. Consider this a “pre-interview” and prepare for the meeting. You should talk with them in an effort to get to know them and for them to get to know you. Make the effort and dress up for the meeting. Don’t show up in scrubs because you just came form the operating room. Go to the meeting in a suit, as if you were interviewing with them.

The Department Chair

Meet with the chair of the department to get some face time so that he/she gets to know you. Much like meeting with the program director, make the effort and dress up for the meeting, because this is a pre-interview with them.

5. At last… have fun.

This is your time to get hands on experience in the OR actively doing what you want to be trained to do. If you enjoy what you are doing during your rotation, it will show through and your real personality will come through. If you show up mopey and put out to be there, it will show through as well. Who wants to match a resident who is more concerned with getting off work than learning about anesthesiology?

You audition rotation should be the fun and exciting time you will have during your anesthesiology training. Once you get into residency, you will have call schedules, more responsibilities, and more stress. Enjoy your audition rotation because you will have the least amount of demands made of you. As stressful as making a good impression is on a potential residency program, you should enjoy the process.

While doing these 5 things will not guarantee an interview/match, they should help you to focus your energies and become the best anesthesiology medical school student you can be.

Dr. Jeff Steiner, is a former Chief Resident and is currently the Program Director of the Pediatric Anesthesiology Program in Dallas, TX. He is author of the book Anesthesia Made Easy: The Survival Guide to Make your First Anesthesia Rotation a Success available as paperback and Kindle from Amazon.com. He has resources for you at AnesthesiaMadeEasy.com/SDN and can be contacted through the website as well.

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