Deliberate practice involves rehearsing specific tasks that challenge the trainee's ability, receiving feedback from a qualified mentor, and moving to more difficult tasks after each successive skill is mastered. (Image source: Thinkstock

Deliberate practice involves rehearsing specific tasks that challenge the trainee’s ability, receiving feedback from a qualified mentor, and moving to more difficult tasks after each successive skill is mastered. (Image source: Thinkstock

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In this month’s issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia, coauthors Dr. Randolph H. Hastings, Anesthesiology Service, VA San Diego Healthcare System, San Diego, California, and Dr. Timothy C. Rickard, Department of Psychology, UC San Diego, La Jolla, California, explore how training in anesthesiology cultivates and maintains expertise in their article titled “Deliberate Practice for Achieving and Maintaining Expertise in Anesthesiology.”

Adopting effective techniques to maintain existing skills and learn new skills is necessary for anesthesiologists to maintain performance after residency. Without such techniques rote performance of a job allows actions to become automated and performance plateaus. Simply performing anesthesia duties is not sufficient to guarantee future expertise.

Considerable research has been undertaken on how people become star performers in various disciplines. The path to expertise includes years of training with deliberate practice, a technique that is designed to foster improvement. Deliberate practice involves rehearsing specific tasks that challenge the trainee’s ability, receiving feedback from a qualified mentor, and moving to more difficult tasks after each successive skill is mastered.

This article presents evidence from both the cognitive psychology and the education literature regarding the benefits of deliberate practice and it reviews studies showing efficacy in anesthesiology education. It also presents concrete examples of how training programs can facilitate the use of deliberate practice and how anesthesiologists can pursue deliberate practice after graduation in order to continue their march toward excellence.