With an increasingly competitive job market, a strong CV is an absolute necessity. One potential avenue to demonstrate enthusiasm, buff your CV and pick up some useful skills is to get involved with research.
Depending on where you are, getting into research in anaesthesia may be easy or very difficult. Melbourne, for example, is very active in anaesthesia research, with numerous professors, research centres and projects. Rural centres and smaller capital cities tend to have far fewer opportunities. Either way, the steps to get involved are similar:
- Identify who does research. In larger centres this is easy – any Professor or Associate Professor will have some involvement in research. Even if they don’t have any projects you can get on board with, they will tend to know who else in the department has projects that might be suitable. If there are multiple people, ask around for recommendations (some may be easier to work with, more supportive or likely to give you a more interesting project) and look them up. A quick Google or PubMed search should find most of their past publications and indicate their areas of interest. If they have a page on a university website then this will often be most useful.
- Approach a potential supervisor. It’s not realistic to dive into research on your own – you want to find someone who is experienced and has the time and interest in taking on a student/JMO for research. The best person isn’t necessarily the one who does the most research or has the most prestigious publications. Someone with only one or two active projects may have more time to dedicate towards your project and supporting you. If you’re already in the department (e.g. rotating through or a registrar) then you can initially approach them informally to express your interest and gauge their interest. Generally, you’re best off making time for a proper appointment to sit down with them and discuss in more detail.
- Establish clear goals. This applies both for you and your supervisor, to make sure that they match up. For example, what timeframe do you have and how long is the project likely to take; when will you be ready to start and how soon can the project begin; how much time are you willing/able to dedicate and how much time does the project require; is the project suitable for publication/presentation and is that what you want; does the supervisor have reasonable expectations of what you can do and are they able to help you with things that you can’t yet do; etc.
- Work out a project. In most cases, this will be a project that your supervisor has already planned or started, which needs/wants another person to work on it. If you have an idea for a project of your own then by all means suggest it – worst case scenario is they aren’t interested by you come across as keen and proactive. Ideally, it’s a project that your supervisor has some degree of interest/investment in so that they’ll help make sure it’s completed, even if there are challenges.
- Research! This is the fun part – actually working on the project. While some aspects of the research process are undeniably tedious or frustrating, it can also be a very interesting, enjoyable and satisfying pursuit. Make sure you go in with reasonable expectations: you will have to work hard and it will eat into your ‘free time’. As a student/JMO you often won’t have dedicated research time (except MD students) and will need to primarily work on your project before and after work/uni and on your ‘days off’.
Trainee Research Networks (TRNs)
- An emerging model for trainee research, with trainees across different sites working together on multi-centre audits and research.
- Current networks in Australia & New Zealand:
Benefits of Research
- Personal interest
- Contributing to the world’s knowledge
- Getting an insight into research, which may guide your future career
- Potential for publications and/or presentations (good for your CV and very rewarding to see your name in print!)
- Networking (research supervisors can be used as references or to help you get competitive rotations)
- Helping your supervisor/department/hospital