Critical care disciplines, especially anaesthesia, are becoming increasingly popular. It is now commonplace for Australian tertiary hospitals to receive several hundred applications for only a handful of positions. Trying to work out the best strategy to secure one of these jobs can feel like a bit of a gamble. However, unlike going to the casino, there are several ways that you can stack the odds in your favour.

Engaging in continuing medical education (CME) is one useful way to gain exposure and demonstrate enthusiasm to your specialty of interest. Because training positions are so highly sought after, many junior doctors hold their cards close so as not to give away their competitive edge. For those early on in their career or hoping to break into the field of anaesthesia, it can be difficult to know where to begin with extracurricular courses. This post aims to explore the potential value that CME can bring to your clinical work and job applications, and contains a list of courses that will be of benefit to those wanting to pursue a career in anaesthesia.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) refers to a range of activities designed to meet individual learning needs and ensure the delivery of safe, current, and high-quality healthcare. CPD activities range from practice-based reflective tasks – including clinical audit, peer-review and performance appraisal, through to participation in CME through courses, conferences and online learning. As a medical student or junior doctor, chances are you have engaged with several of these activities already. In Australia, CPD requirements are mandated and monitored by the Medical Board of Australia, and for anaesthesia and pain medicine, the CPD standard is set by ANZCA. Beyond being a regulatory requirement, CME can benefit your clinical work and career progression.

For those early on in their career, CME provides an opportunity to quickly develop knowledge and skills in an area of interest to the learner. As you progress, participation in CME can be used to demonstrate engagement with and enthusiasm toward your specialty of interest. In fact, CME is possibly the easiest component of your curriculum vitae (CV) to modify and expand. Whilst you should not rely on an exhaustive list of courses to secure a job or position on a training scheme, completion of certain courses is often expected, and consistent engagement with courses will only look favourably in your application.

Through providing learners with skills and knowledge, medical education can lead to increased confidence and clinical competence. This is important for professional growth, and can assist you with making a strong impression on your clinical team and potential referees. Further, regular engagement with medical education demonstrates self-directed ownership of your own education. This is important – because the ability to balance learning alongside working fulltime can demonstrate that you have the maturity and stamina necessary to  prepare for and succeed in specialty training exams. This is something that many employees actively consider when deciding who is most suitable for the position.

CME is delivered in a variety of formats – including short online modules, multi-day intensive courses, through to higher-level degrees. While several formal learning opportunities are free, the majority come with a cost. To help cover this cost, doctors are provided with a fortnightly CME allowance (check your payslip!) and courses are tax deductable. Although it may come at a cost, structured learning is a worthwhile investment in yourself and your career.

Below is a list of critical care courses that you may wish to consider participating in, depending on your experience. This list is by no means an exhaustive collection of available courses; nor is it a list that you should aim to work through in its entirety. Rather, this list contains many of the courses that my peers and I have completed and enjoyed, and that I believe will bring value to your clinical work and job applications. Many of these courses are run online and instantly accessible, however some are delivered in-person and have long waitlists due to COVID-19 restrictions. Courses directed at registrar level and above only have not been included in this list. Courses are listed in alphabetical order under each subheading.

In-person delivery

Advanced Life Support (ALS) 2

Content: Lectures, practical workshops, moderate fidelity simulations, assessment and certification.
Duration: 2 days
Cost: $600-1200. Hospitals generally provide significant discounts for their own staff.

Anaesthesia Crisis Resource Management

Content: Covers the key principles of crisis resource management and explores the dynamics of effective team communication through high-fidelity simulation and focused debriefing.
Duration: 1 day
Cost: $610

Basic Assessment and Support in Intensive Care (BASIC)

Content: Covers fundamental knowledge and skills required for junior medical staff working in intensive care units. Includes a combination of lectures, problem-based learning, and hands-on skills stations.
Duration: 2 days
Cost: Variable $550-800
Available: Widely available

Early Management of Severe Trauma (EMST) – RACS

Content: Teaches a systematic, concise approach to the care of a trauma patient, providing a safe and reliable method for immediate management of injured patients in the first one to two hours following injury. Highly interactive and includes skills stations and scenarios.
Duration:  2.5 days (or 6 sessions broken up over multiple evenings)
Cost: $3090

*This course is considered equivalent to the Advanced Trauma Life Support course. Consider completing either of these courses once on the anaesthesia training program, as it can be used to facilitate exemption for volume of practice requirements for trauma exposure.

National Airway Training Course for Anaesthesia Trainees (NATCAT)

Content: Hands on skills stations, basic and advanced airway management, high fidelity simulations, problem-based learning.
Duration: 1 day
Cost: $495

Skills training for Anaesthesia Residents (STAR)

Content: Combination of hands-on skills stations, low-moderate-high fidelity simulations, problem-based learning, non-technical skills, CV and interview advice.
Duration: 1 day
Cost: $650

Teaching on the Run – PMCV

Content: Uses theory and applied learning to demonstrate how to plan and deliver learning for small and large groups, effective skills and clinical teaching, assessment fundamentals and feedback.
Duration:  2 days (or 6 sessions broken up over multiple evenings)
Cost: $630


ABC’s of Anaesthesia Boot Camp – Anaesthesia Collective

Content: Provides a step-by-step practical approach to anaesthesia that aims to help participants make the most out of rotations in anaesthesia. Includes structured approaches to patient assessment and management, reinforced through interactive problem-based learning. Additionally presents practical information about how to arrange your rotation, how to get the most out of working with a consultant, and advice for getting a favourable reference.
Duration: 1 day, online
Cost: $250, which is donated in entirety to a charitable cause

Better Pain Management – ANZCA

Content: This program delivers a multidisciplinary understanding and contemporary approach to the assessment, diagnosis, and management of those experiencing persistent pain. Includes interactive modules, problem-based learning, and visual animations.
Duration: 12 modules, 1 hour per module
Cost: $315

Perioperative Medicine in Action – University College London

Content: Provides an interactive introduction to perioperative medicine, decision making and risk assessment, protocolised care pathways and perioperative care of the elderly.
Duration: 4 weeks, total 12 hours
Cost: Free

Perioperative Medicine Short Course – Monash University

Content: Covers 12 topics related to perioperative medical management delivered through interactive modules which include videos, podcasts, links to key papers and online resources, and practical clinical scenarios. Content is delivered by experts in that field and updated annually.
Duration: 12 weeks, online
Cost: $1400

Ultrasound Guided Regional Anaesthesia – Lightbox Radiology

Content: Online lectures and interactive quizzes covering ultrasound guided regional anaesthesia of the neck, upper limb, lower limb, and trunk, as well as principles of ultrasound guided interventional techniques.
Duration: 6 modules, 1 hour per module
Cost: $210

Higher education

Clinical Ultrasound – Graduate Certificate/Diploma/Masters

Provider: The University of Melbourne
Content: Covers a broad curriculum of the theory and application of clinical ultrasound. There is particular focus on echocardiography, with increasing emphasis on transoesophageal echocardiography at higher levels. This opportunity is best complemented with clinical echocardiography exposure which is to be organised by participants within their local health networks.
Duration: Varies. Online only.
Cost: $8000-$30,000

Medicine (Critical Care) – Graduate Certificate/Diploma/Masters

Provider: The University of Sydney
Content: Over 58 available units which explore a broad range of topics from perioperative care through to retrieval medicine. Includes units in physiology, pathology and pharmacology designed to cover some of the Primary or First Part syllabus requirements of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists, the College of Intensive Care Medicine, and the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine. Anaesthetic specific units available, including neuromonitoring in anaesthesia, and acute pain.
Duration: Varies. Delivered online with some face-to-face intensive workshops.
Cost: $8,000 – 31,500

Medicine (Perioperative) – Graduate Certificate/Masters

Provider: Monash University
Content: This course explores a wide range of topics including perioperative medicine and cardiovascular disease, acute perioperative medicine, human factors and leadership, health economics, perioperative outcomes and the use of protocols and pathways. The Master’s degree includes both a theoretical and a practical capstone project.
Duration: Varies. Online with face-to-face intensive workshops.
Cost: $13,450 – $26,900

If you have any questions please comment below!