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Anesthesia Undergraduate Program

The Department of Anesthesia at McMaster University, along with other Canadian academic departments of anesthesia, has the responsibility of providing leadership in the discipline of anesthesia.

This is achieved through the conduct of fundamental and applied research, and through a commitment to the highest level of teaching students, colleagues, and the public. Integral to these goals is the organization and provision of safe and effective clinical services in anesthesia by competent, caring physicians.

Anesthesia Undergraduate Program Components

The Anesthesia Undergraduate Program includes:

  • Core clerkship rotation
  • Block electives
  • Horizontal electives

Core Clerkship Rotation

It is a 2-week rotation that is mandatory for all McMaster medical students. Students are exposed to many concepts of anesthetic practice in a combination of small group sessions, problem-based learning, part-task training, theatre-based simulation, and clinical environments.

The curriculum is grounded on the principles of Adult Learning Theory. More specifically, the rotation follows the philosophy of experiential learning, ie., learning by experiencing, reflecting, and doing. Additionally, the goals are directed to a general practitioner to get an appreciation of the multifaceted characteristic of Anesthesia, which includes pieces of knowledge from various disciplines.

Considering patients with all sorts of comorbidities may require surgical treatment, natural integration occurs with virtually all specialties.

The principle of the challenge point framework are also followed during the Anesthesia rotation. The first two days are dedicated to academic sessions related to core knowledge required prior to clinical exposure, but in a highly-supervised fashion as students work one-on-one with a faculty member or resident. At the end, the students are exposed to a theatre-based simulation exercise. Although the challenge point framework typically suggests that gradual progression in difficulty would culminate with a real clinical situation, for anesthesia clerks the simulation is more challenging as they act without clinical supervision and are responsible for the entirety of care of the patient. Only then can they see the outcomes of their actions or interactions.

The AFMC 2015 Graduation Questionnaire shows that approximately 85% of McMaster students are satisfied with their educational experience in Anesthesia.

Rotation Objectives

  • To acquire an appreciation of the multifaceted discipline of Anesthesia
  • To gain an understanding of the clinical application of physiology and pharmacology to patients of all ages
  • To acquire the basic practical skills of airway and circulatory management

For more detailed objectives of the rotation, Anesthesia Clerkship Objectives.

For McMaster students looking for more information about the rotation, please visit Anesthesia clerkship page


Block Electives

If you are a medical student interested in Anesthesia as a career, or if you feel further exposure to Anesthesia is important for your training, you may want to pursue an elective with us. This elective will provide a broad perspective on the scope of practice of a career in Anesthesia. Students will gain experience in the anesthetic assessment, preparation, and optimization of patients in the perioperative period. Students will also learn about the systemic effects of anesthetic drugs, as well as airway, fluid, and pain management in the perioperative period. There may also be opportunities to be exposed obstetrical, pediatric, and regional anesthesia.

Block electives are 2 weeks in duration. Due to the high volume of requests we receive, we are unable to accommodate clinical electives longer than two weeks. Occasionally, one-week electives will be permitted. Typically, requests need to be made several months in advance as spots fill up quickly.

It is important to highlight that electives in Anesthesia are not offered only in Hamilton. Please visit the Mac-CARE program website for elective opportunities in the distributed campuses.

McMaster Students

Requests are made via MedSIS

Prior to placing your request, we recommend that you visit the Anesthesia Clerkship page on Medportal for more information.

Visiting Students

Requests are made via the AFMC Student Portal

Visiting students should be aware that requests are not made directly to our department. After a request is made via the AFMC portal, the Undergraduate Electives Office will process it. Only after their initial processing is that requests are forwarded to us. Depending on availability, we will accept or decline the request.

For more information, check this link:, or contact the Undergraduate Electives Office at

Horizontal Electives

Horizontal Electives consist of shorter electives offered exclusively to McMaster medical students.

Typically offered to pre-clerks, as an opportunity for early exposure to Anesthesia. A horizontal elective will consist of a minimum of 8 hours and maximum of 16 hours of clinical exposure shadowing a clinical preceptor. You may divide the elective into any combination of full day (i.e. 8 hours) or half days (i.e. 4 hours). Please check the Anesthesia Clerkship page on Medportal for more information.

Anesthesia e-Book

Understanding Anesthesia: A Learner's Guide is an interactive electronic textbook developed by Dr. Karen Raymer and Dr. Rick Kolesar from the McMaster University Department of Anesthesia, along with Eric Brown, a McMaster Medical Student.

It is meant to be used for the Anesthesia Clerkship Program as well as for medical students during anesthesia electives. It is available for free download on the book's website, as well as Apple iTunes.

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