The idea of contributing to medical research typically evokes a strong range of reactions from junior doctors. Many revel at the chance to advance scientific knowledge, while others despair at the thought of trying to fill the empty space that sits beneath the ‘research and audit’ heading of their CV. Regardless of your level of enthusiasm towards it, research is an important aspect of medical training that has the potential to give you a competitive edge in applications for critical care jobs. Now that I’ve piqued your interest – what’s the smartest way to get involved, and how can you reap the greatest reward for your efforts? Continue reading to find out.

Why get involved?

There are many reasons why medical students and junior doctors seek to get involved with research. Common reasons include:

  • For publication (often with the aim of increasing CV points)
  • To create opportunities for conference presentations/posters (see above)
  • To present findings at hospital/department meetings
  • To form professional relationships with people working in their desired profession
  • To become ‘known’ to a department
  • To gain research and analytical skills
  • To demonstrate interest in an area of medicine
  • To gain expert insight into a topic
  • To pursue a genuine interest in medical research
  • For the broader benefit of medicine
  • Course/college requirements

Individual motivations for getting involved with research are varied, and reflect many of the benefits you can expect from completing a project. Beyond the advantages listed above, research provides an opportunity for prevocational doctors to demonstrate their suitability for a career in anaesthesia through alignment with the seven key ‘Roles of Practice’ for anaesthetists as described by ANZCA. These roles include that of a medical expert, communicator, collaborator, leader and manager, health advocate, scholar, and professional. Demonstrating behaviour consistent with these roles can signal to others that you are a suitable fit for the profession, and will give you plenty to talk about in the interview!

Before you embark on your first project – it is wise to consider the expected level of involvement with research for someone at your level. As a medical student or prevocational doctor, you are not expected to design, recruit, and complete your own randomised controlled trial. Nor is it imperative that you are first author on a published journal article (although this is great if you are!). In general, it is expected that junior doctors demonstrate an interest in academia by contributing to one or two research projects or audits through data collection, analysis, or manuscript preparation. Given the competitive nature of anaesthetic resident and registrar jobs however, many candidates will strive beyond this and contribute significantly to multiple projects. Getting involved early and choosing your project wisely are two of the greatest keys to your success – more on that later.

To get you started, here are examples of the type of projects you could get involved with:

  • Literature review
  • Systematic review or meta-analysis
  • Data collection for an established project
  • Data analysis for a smaller sub-study (larger studies will usually be authored by registrars or PhD candidates)
  • Retrospective data analysis for previously collected data
  • Clinical audit

How to get involved

Medical students

Most medical students are required to complete a research project as a part of their degree. This is the ideal opportunity to kick start your involvement with research and start building professional connections. If you have identified that you are interested in anaesthesia early – great! Reach out to anaesthetists involved in teaching at your clinical school or approach the anaesthetics department affiliated with your university. This is a great way to make yourself known to the anaesthetics department early, especially if you are hoping to continue working at this hospital as a junior doctor.

If you are involved with research in a non-critical care field – do not worry! Any research experience is worthwhile and will look favourably on your CV. To make the most of this opportunity, see the ‘tips for success’ section below.


Internship and residency are a busy time for junior doctors, and it is important that the development of clinical skills and sound clinical judgement are prioritised during this time. Alongside this, it is important to prepare and plan for future roles and specialist college applications. For the prepared candidate, this will involve participation in research or audit activities. It is important to seek out opportunities early to provide yourself for ample time to complete, submit and present your work.

Approach your hospitals department of anaesthesia early and find time to meet with the head of research. Note that despite your enthusiasm there may not be any projects currently available, and understand that departments must prioritise these opportunities for their trainees for whom completing a scholarly project is a college requirement. Do not be disheartened by this! Persist. Chat with some of the anaesthetic registrars at your hospital and offer to assist with data collection for their scholarly project. Ensure it is widely known that you are keen to get involved in any capacity, and ensure key clinicians have your contact details should a project become available.

While it is ideal to seek out opportunities within your hospital’s anaesthetics department for the benefit of networking, it is wise to look for opportunities within non-critical care rotations too. Involvement in a project outside of your specialty of choice demonstrates broad engagement with your clinical rotations, and affords you many of the skills you would acquire through anaesthesia-based research.

Tips for success

  • Get started early! Research takes time, and usually longer than you think.
  • Team up with a colleague or jump onboard a project that is already underway. The process of obtaining ethics approval can be time consuming – joining an established project can save you a lot of time.
  • Find (or design) a project that you are genuinely interested in. Your best work will come from a topic that interests you.
  • Find a supervisor who is supportive and responsive. This is important. Registrars can often steer you in the right direction.
  • Ensure the project is realistic and achievable. Do not over commit yourself.
  • Discuss expectations and goals with your supervisor and associate researchers early (authorship, frequency of meetings, timelines).
  • Set a timeline and stick to it where possible.
  • See your project through to the end. The time scale to reward in research can be long, however it is a worthwhile endeavor.
  • Submit for publication early. Give yourself enough time to respond to feedback and have your work published well before job applications are due. ‘Manuscript in preparation’ is not nearly as rewarding or impactful as having the article published.
  • Capitalize on your efforts by seeking opportunities to present your work at your hospital and at local and international conferences.
  • Get involved with additional projects in a reduced capacity (e.g., assisting a registrar with data collection). This is a great way to expand your research experience (and score another publication) without a huge time cost.
  • Be clear about your involvement with the project in your CV. Describe your contribution.
  • If research isn’t your ‘jam’ – don’t fret. Research is just one component of your CV, and it is okay to place your efforts in areas of your CV which you may be more passionate about. Regardless, evidence of some exposure and participation with research is strongly recommended.


Whether you love or loathe the idea of research, there is much to gain from getting involved in research and audit projects early in your career. Chose a topic that is right for you, and collaborate with colleagues to share the workload and learn from each other. Capitalise on your efforts by submitting your work broadly to conferences, and present your findings at a department meeting at your hospital. The time you invest in contributing to research will yield strong dividends if you see it through to the end.