Methods and Implications of Limiting Resident Duty Hours

Dan E. Miulli, DO, and Jennine C. Valcore, FNP-BC, MSN
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: August 26, 2009

Accepted: March 24, 2010

Published: July 1, 2010

J Osteopath Med; 110(7): 385-395

Context: Current limitations on residency duty hours came about after the death of a patient in 1984 in a New York City hospital. This tragedy served as the catalyst for a new public awareness and subsequent change in philosophy regarding resident duty hours, fatigue factors, and risks to patients from the long and tedious shifts of residency. However, it has proven difficult to limit resident physician duty hours.

Objectives: To analyze the impact of resident duty hour limitation (RDHL) implementation on residents, faculty, and patients.

Methods: The authors conducted a survey of faculty and resident attitudes and experiences regarding RDHLs in the graduate medical education department at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center (ARMC) in Colton, California. They also conducted a review of the literature on faculty and resident attitudes and experiences before and after implementation of RDHLs.

Results: Of 60 surveys sent to ARMC faculty members in 2009, 12 (20.0%) were returned. Of 140 surveys sent to ARMC residents, 96 (68.6%) were returned. The survey results and literature review indicated that most faculty physicians initially believed that decreasing resident duty hours would limit the time available to residents for educational experiences and participation in treatment procedures, operations, and consultations. In addition, faculty initially believed that fewer training hours would diminish the quality of residents’ educational experiences. Residents also expected negative outcomes from RDHLs. However, statistical data on actual outcomes revealed that residency programs are not adversely affected by limiting resident work hours to 80 hours per week. Furthermore, benefits of RDHLs appear to include improved patient care and well-rounded and psychologically balanced residents.

Conclusions: A survey and literature review revealed a number of benefits of RDHLs. It is unclear, however, whether additional limitations of resident work hours are necessary or could accommodate the growing amount of information and skills that are required to become a competent physician.

Read Full Article