Deliberate practice for achieving and maintaining expertise in anesthesiology

Anesth Analg. 2015 Feb;120(2):449-59. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000000526.


For the dedicated anesthesiologist, a high level of expertise is needed to deliver good care to patients and to provide excellent service to surgeons, anesthesia colleagues, and others. Expertise helps the anesthesiologist recover from difficult situations and generally makes the practice run more effectively. Expertise also contributes to quality of life through higher self-esteem and long-term career satisfaction. We begin by reviewing the attributes that characterize expert performance and discussing how a specific training format, known as deliberate practice, contributes to acquisition and maintenance of expertise. Deliberate practice involves rehearsal of specific tasks to mastery, ideally under the eye of a mentor to provide feedback. This amounts to an orchestrated effort to improve that enables trainees to progress to expert levels of performance. With few exceptions, people who become recognized experts have pursued deliberate practice on the order of 4 hours per day for 10 to 15 years. In contrast, those who practice their profession in a rote manner see their skills plateau well below the level of top performers. Anesthesiology instruction with attending supervision provides all of the necessary components for deliberate practice, and it can be effective in anesthesia. Using deliberate practice in teaching requires organization in selecting training topics, effort in challenging students to excel, and skill in providing feedback. In this article, we discuss how educational programs can implement deliberate practice in anesthesiology training, review resources for instructors, and suggest how anesthesiologists can continue the practice after residency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesiology / education
  • Anesthesiology / standards*
  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency