Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Has Anesthesiology Become One Of The Hardest Residencies To Get Into?

Here are some interesting statistics about the recent Match Day results from the latest issue of the ASA Monitor. This year, there were 1,884 anesthesiology positions available for the Match. This includes both CA1 and CA2 spots. By the end of Match Day, 1,873 positions were taken. Only eleven spots remained unfilled. That turns out to be a 99.4% match rate for anesthesiology. This compares similarly to other highly competitive residencies like orthopedics and ENT which also had a 99.4% match rate success. This is even more impressive when one considers that the number of anesthesiology residency positions has been increasing every year, from 1,590 spots in 2016 to 1,788 in 2018 and this year's 1,884, an increase of 18.5% in four years.

These kinds of statistics wouldn't seem possible for those of us who were around to remember the disastrous match rates for anesthesiology back in the 1990s. At that time, false analysis of the manpower needed for anesthesia jobs declared that there was going to be an excess of anesthesiologists and not enough jobs available. This caused medical students to avoid anesthesiology like the plague, or the coronavirus in contemporaneous terms. The number of students matching into anesthesiology went from 1,025 in 1992 to a bottom of 324 in 1996. That's not a misprint. Back then anesthesia residency programs couldn't give away their spots. It's taken a long slow road to improve to the current state of exclusivity for anesthesia again.

So what accounts for this recent surge in popularity of anesthesiology? Perhaps the warnings about a catastrophic oversupply of anesthesiologists and subsequent collapse of their incomes have finally been buried. Anesthesiologists consistently are in the top ten of income earners as measured by various surveys of physicians. Maybe it's the so called lifestyle that most young people prefer these days. The days of living at the hospital 18 hours a day no longer appeals to the newest generation of physicians, or anyone else for that matter. Or could it be that ambitious young doctors have realized that anesthesiology isn't just about intubating patients and passing gas. It encompasses the whole physiologic complexity of human disease, from cardiothoracic to neuro to OB to pain and regional medicine. Anesthesiology is no less challenging than any other medical or surgical fields.

Whatever the case, there doesn't appear to be any slowdown in the interest in anesthesiology or the number of positions being offered each year for Match Day. One day perhaps when our fellow medical students find out we matched into anesthesiology, they'll think we got in because we are really smart, not because we did it for the lifestyle and money.

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