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Congratulations! You have made a commitment to becoming an outstanding anesthesiologist. With these flash cards and some regular practice, you will easily gain the skills to become a decisive anesthesiologist who demonstrates wisdom, judgment, and skill in prioritizing, and who is well-respected by their peers, surgical colleagues, and patients.

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There are many different ways that anesthesiology residents prepare for end-of-training examinations in addition to life as an attending or consultant. Examples include studying texts, reading journals, going over old questions, and undergoing mock oral examinations from local faculty. Others choose to attend “crash courses” of oral board preparation where they are advised to skirt tricky issues, hedge their bets, and “game the system.” Wait a minute. What the…? “Game the system??!!!” Is that really the kind of anesthesiologist that you want to be? Someone that does not really know all the answers but can spread it on pretty thick? How is that going to save your patient’s life at 3 a.m. when you are the only person managing their critical illness? It is especially important that at 3 a.m. you are able to fall back on a set of principles that guide you through information-gathering, synthesis, prioritizing, decision making, and reevaluation. In this collection of flash cards, we present a method of learning material and preparation that is tried and true, and will help you to both ace the oral examination and, more importantly, continue to think critically throughout your lifelong practice.

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But wait, before we get ahead of ourselves, let us discuss what it means to think critically like an anesthesiologist. As with any professional, a competent anesthesiologist is defined by elements from many domains:

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  • Knowledge (and let us face it, we have to know a lot…)
  • Academic qualifications
  • Technical skills
  • Ethics
  • Ability to practice independently

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Knowledge of the specialty is an essential component and the training to gain adequate knowledge takes many years. Numerous comprehensive textbooks and journals are dedicated to help fill this need. However, an anesthesiologist requires more than knowledge to be successful!

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Critical thinking is the application of knowledge and requires you to show judgment, adaptability, and the ability to prioritize. An anesthesiologist must be able to create a sound anesthetic plan based on the information they acquire before and during a procedure. Given the constantly changing operating room environment, you must not only be able to anticipate problems but also rapidly diagnose and treat changes in your patient’s status.

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Why is critical thinking so important? There are a couple of reasons:

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  1. Oral examinations. As one of the last steps of anesthesiology education, trainees are required to pass oral examinations to prove this ability. Oral examinations do not test knowledge in and of themselves (although you will not pass if you do not know anything). That is what written examinations are for. The oral examination, in contrast, is designed to ...

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