ASA Community members offer 4 tips for anesthesiology residents.
An ASA Community resident member recently requested thoughts on the best ways to seek out and receive feedback, stating, "Often, the feedback forms our attendings fill out don't have the detail or personalization we'd like in order to focus on specific improvements. We are also advised to ask for feedback in person and in the moment, but in-person feedback focuses on one small task or procedure."
Emerging and experienced anesthesiologists gave valuable advice. After all, as one noted, "For anyone to improve, they must be made aware of how others perceive them and their work."
1. Don't focus on a form. One respondent explained, "Resident and fellow evaluation forms are, unfortunately, often lengthy and very formulaic due to the requirements of the ACGME. In some programs they arrive in a bunch of 10 to 20 evaluations that must be filled out within a short time." Another agreed, saying, "There are a few forces against giving quality feedback. Formal tools and forms are complex, time consuming, and have enough lag that they seem more evaluative than performance-oriented."
One commenter pointed out that the issue is partly semantic. "Feedback, by definition, is immediate and should be geared toward a specific action for correction, not a vague 'you did well.' Asking for forms to fill out is really looking for evaluation."
To receive truly valuable feedback, the first respondent recommended, "I would suggest talking to a trusted faculty mentor about your performance, as they may be able to offer more useful and considered feedback."
2. Make it clear that you're listening. One poster pointed out that attendings know, "Some percentage of trainees will react poorly to actionable feedback," and that "Feedback given to those not eager to receive it seems to do little good."
Still, as another commenter added, "Your best feedback is of the informal kind that comes from attendings who'll work with anyone and speak at your level." Let them know their advice isn't wasted on you.
3. Encourage feedback-givers to be blunt. If you really want to learn, members agreed that you have seek out honest feedback, even if it isn't what you always want to hear.
"I learned what I know from skilled teachers, not via feedback forms," recalled one poster. "Nothing will ever replace real-time discussion as a primary feedback mechanism for performance improvement. I would suggest asking questions that provoke attendings into being blunt and giving all the feedback they can offer." They even provided a few ideas to get the conversation started:
- If you were doing this case solo what would you have done differently?
- What should I do differently next time?
- I had trouble with (XXX part of a procedure) and struggled a bit. How can I get better at that?"
Another concurred, advising, "Seek out the attendings who are more abrasive—not the 'nice' attendings. Put on your thick skin and ask them what you need to work on to become better. Tell them you won't be offended and that you are looking for honest critical feedback."
From their experience, this participant realized, "These attendings are more often blunt and okay with offending, which is usually why they are less popular. Truth be told, I learned more from this type of attending using this approach. A happy bonus is that they seemed to appreciate it and were enjoyable to work with. I assumed the relationship was more enjoyable for them as well, as they would actively seek out cases for me that were learning opportunities."
4. Appraise yourself, too. One member opined, "It's an imperfect system of imperfect people passing judgment on imperfect trainees ... Only you know what you lack, what you're good at, etc. Set out to strengthen those deficits."
Similarly, an anesthesiology professor illustrated how they build self-evaluation into the program. "If the resident doesn't ask for specific feedback—although they should—I usually end by asking, 'What did you learn today?' That at least makes them think about it, when they think they didn't learn anything. If they say they didn't learn anything, that's a lesson in itself. I learn something every day!"
What's on your mind? ASA Community members have been there and are happy to share their perspectives. There's even a topic dedicated to conversations among residents, so you can get answers to the issues you're facing right now.