Oral board examinations are the bane of all new anesthesia residency graduates. It's the cloud that hangs over their heads throughout their entire first year of medical practice until they finally submit to the exams and, usually, pass. But for weeks and months prior to the test, the anticipation and stress it causes can wreak havoc on the young doctors' social and professional life.
The latest issue of Anesthesiology has a study that examines whether passing the written and oral anesthesia boards makes a difference in whether anesthesiologists are later disciplined by their state medical boards. The researchers looked at anesthesiologists who entered ACGME approved residencies from 1971 to 2011. Altogether, they had nearly 50,000 anesthesiologists in the study.
They found that there were over 2,000 incidences that affected the anesthesiologists' medical licenses, either with loss of the license or its restriction. The most common events that led to disciplinary action was substance abuse, not surprising for anesthesiologists. This was followed by license/board violation, malpractice, unprofessional conduct, and inappropriate prescribing. Men were found to be more likely to face state medical board action than women. American medical graduates are also at higher risk for discipline than international graduates.
The authors found that anesthesiologists who did not pass their written and oral boards on the first attempt had little to no higher risk for future licensure loss than those who did. The doctors who did not pass their oral boards faced the same risk of legal action by the medical boards as those who failed both the written and oral boards. The incidence of state board action in the two groups, those who only passed the written and those who passed neither, were not significantly different.
The study concludes that the ability to pass the oral board examination requires the sacrifice and discipline that will carry forward to a long and successful career in medicine. Just passing the written boards is not good enough. The rigor and clear headed thinking that's needed to be successfully board certified will reward the participants for decades to come.
So residents, get cracking on those review books and mock oral exams. It will be worth it in the end.