Podcasts, the digital audio phenomenon, have become a popular and versatile educational tool across diverse fields, including anesthesiology. First appearing in the 1980s and termed “audio blogs,” podcasting began to gain traction around 2004 (Balkan Med J 2022;39:334–9). Since then, its widespread demand, accessibility, and potential as a medical educational resource has grown. As the demand for on-the-go, easily consumable content rises, podcasts cater to the dynamic educational needs of health care professionals. Podcasts offer an efficient means of staying updated in the evolving landscape of medical practice. Furthermore, podcasting can provide a sense of professional identity and virtual community with fellow residents, supervisors, and the greater medical community (Acad Med 2020;95:89–96).

The surge in podcast popularity began, and was particularly pronounced, in the fields of emergency medicine and critical care, but it has quickly made its way into others, including anesthesiology. Regardless of the listener's stage of training, there are a variety of podcasts available for different subspecialties, experience levels, and audience interests. Importantly, these podcasts do not target only those within the medical field; instead, they embrace inclusivity, making content available and, often, more understandable to those who may be curious about the topic but lack formal training. For example, someone without medical or research training might not be able to understand the nuances of a published medical study, but they may be able to learn the important points from a podcast about the study. The ongoing rise in the popularity of podcasts is fueled by their inherent accessibility on mobile devices; they are available on major streaming platforms and dedicated medical education channels. In anesthesiology, as in other fields, there is a need for continual education due to evolving techniques and research, and podcasts serve as an invaluable resource. Their asynchronous nature fits into busy schedules, allowing listeners to access expert insights, case discussions, journal article topics, and the latest advancements at the learner's convenience. Audio-only podcasts allow learners to multitask, listening to an episode while driving, working out, or doing chores. This convenience makes them even more attractive to those with lots to learn and little time in which to do it, such as resident physicians.

From the perspective of podcast hosts, podcasting serves as a medium to broaden skillsets in communication and disseminate academic information in a digestible manner. Some institutions, such as the Mayo Clinic, have made the creation and dissemination of podcasts a part of the metrics used to appraise faculty for promotion and tenure – a glimpse into podcasting's continued and expanding role in an academic physician's portfolio (J Grad Med Educ 2017;9:421-5). Podcasting now presents an opportunity for trainees or practicing physicians to have a real impact on their field and advance their careers.

The ways in which podcasts are used by listeners varies. They can help prepare learners for board exams or for their day-to-day clinical practice. They can present pro-con debates on controversial topics such as whether spinal anesthesia decreases the risk of postoperative delirium or whether anesthesiology providers should use an existing labor epidural for unexpected C-sections. Listeners can appraise each side of the debate and use it to help inform their own practice. Podcasts can also play a role in learning through the flipped classroom model, where participants first review novel content outside the classroom, and then in-class time is dedicated to applying and elaborating on the concepts covered in the outside learning. More recently, podcasting has been used to facilitate mentorship from senior to junior faculty. For example, at a large health care facility in the Midwest, there is a recorded interview series that aims to inspire and motivate younger faculty in their career choices by sharing the recalled experiences of those more senior (J Prim Care Community Health 2023;14:21501319231197162).

As technology advances, podcasts are having a major impact on medical education, playing an increasingly integral role in the continuous professional development of anesthesiologists. Podcasts are an important addition to the culture of lifelong learning within the field, providing an innovative avenue for physicians and practitioners to stay informed and engaged.

The evidence supporting the educational benefits of podcasts is substantial. It has been reported that listeners have increased subjective confidence, knowledge attainment, knowledge retention, and behavioral change outcomes with learning motivation (Acad Med 2022;97:1079-85). Studies using neurocognitive data have shown that podcasts are at least equivalent to textbooks in maintaining attention, and are likely superior in learning and retention in anesthesiology trainees (Cureus 2022;14:e31289). Similarly, anesthesiology trainees who received a podcast educational module on how to read EEGs showed a greater increase in learning compared with those receiving didactic teaching (Anesth Analg 2015;121:791-7).

In addition to the evidence for improved learning over traditional mediums such as textbooks, podcasts have been found to be preferred by learners. One 2019 study on resident education preferences reported that podcasts were the preferred method of learning critical care medicine by 71% of residents from six specialties (Crit Care Med 2019;47:509). A component of achieving “flow” in education, a critical social and emotional aspect of learning pioneered by psychologist Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi, is enjoyment or interest in the activity itself. It may be that students who engage in podcast-based learning find themselves completely absorbed in its content, characterized by effortless concentration and a sense that the time has quickly passed once listening to an episode concludes (Br J Anaesth 2024;132:418-20). The benefits of flow state facilitate positive emotions, enhance academic performance, and contribute to effective continuance of learning (Bera 2017;48:899-15).

Within anesthesiology, podcasts function as a dynamic tool, offering a multifaceted learning experience. Covering a broad spectrum of topics, from foundational principles to advanced techniques, podcasts integrate real-life scenarios, expert interviews, and emerging research updates. Many journals and academic institutions offer their own podcast series. The format supports self-directed learning, enabling listeners to enhance their clinical knowledge and stay on top of the latest developments.

There are 14 podcasts dedicated specifically to anesthesiology (Table 1), as well as numerous others focused on subspecialties such as critical care and regional and acute pain medicine. Additional categories of anesthesiology-related podcasts include those focused on financial and business planning, practice management, the advancement of diversity in the field, health policy considerations, platforms dedicated to resident contributions, updated safety guidelines, and curricula tailored for CRNAs and SRNAs to review in preparation for board exams (Table 2).

Table 1: Overview of today's anesthesiology podcasts.

Table 1: Overview of today's anesthesiology podcasts.
Table 1: Overview of today's anesthesiology podcasts.

Table 2: Prevalence of podcasts in different specialties.

Table 2: Prevalence of podcasts in different specialties.
Table 2: Prevalence of podcasts in different specialties.

Across other specialties, emergency medicine is the leading specialty in active podcasts. In 2020, emergency medicine was not only found to have the most active podcasts (28), but also the highest volume of content available. It exceeded twice the number of podcasts identified in internal medicine and obstetrics and gynecology combined, the subsequent two most active podcasting specialties (Cureus 2020;12:e6726). Today, emergency medicine has over 50 active podcasts. Anesthesiology has also grown, from eight active podcasts in 2020 to 14 at the time this article was written. Importantly, all the podcasts in anesthesiology are available to listeners at no cost. See Table 3 for estimated numbers of podcasts in other fields.

Table 3: Examples of subspecialty podcasts.

Table 3: Examples of subspecialty podcasts.
Table 3: Examples of subspecialty podcasts.

The increasing popularity of podcasts in anesthesiology education raises some potential concerns. First, most podcasts are audio-only, and some learners may prefer other modalities. Second, as most podcasts operate within the realm of Free Open Access Medical Education (“FOAMed”), and anyone can start one, there exists the inherent risk of individuals without sufficient medical training distributing inaccurate content, or listeners without adequate training misinterpreting the content, potentially resulting in inappropriate application and dissemination of information. It is important that listeners evaluate the quality of the content, check references, and validate any new or surprising information through other sources before making any management decisions.

The impact podcasts can have for both learners and educators in the field of anesthesiology remains promising. The utilization of podcasts is reshaping the way we learn, facilitating the seamless integration of asynchronous materials into our daily routines in an accessible manner. It is likely that podcasts will continue to gain popularity, that more podcasts will be created, and that they will play an increasingly central role in anesthesiology education.

Sophia Wu, BA, MD Candidate, The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, D.C.

Sophia Wu, BA, MD Candidate, The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, D.C.

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Jed Wolpaw, MD, MEd, Associate Professor and Residency Program Director, Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore.

Jed Wolpaw, MD, MEd, Associate Professor and Residency Program Director, Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore.

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