Measuring the attitudes and impact of the eighty-hour workweek rules on orthopaedic surgery residents.

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BACKGROUND: The literature on graduate medical education contains anecdotal reports of some effects of the new eighty-hour workweek on the attitudes and performance of residents. However, there are relatively few studies detailing the attitudes of large numbers of residents in a particular surgical specialty toward the new requirements.

METHODS: Between July and November 2004, a survey created by the Academic Advocacy Committee of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons was distributed by mail, fax, and e-mail to a total of 4207 orthopaedic residents at the postgraduate year-1 through year-6 levels of training. The survey responses were tabulated electronically, and the results were recorded.

RESULTS: The survey response rate was 13.2% (554 residents). Sixty-eight percent (337) of the 495 respondents whose postgraduate-year level was known were at the postgraduate year-4 level or higher. Attitudes concerning the duty rules were mixed. Twenty-three percent of the 554 respondents thought that eighty hours constituted an appropriate number of duty hours per week; 41% believed that eighty hours were too many, and 34% thought that eighty hours were not sufficient. Thirty-three percent of the respondents had worked greater than eighty hours during at least a single one-week period since the new rules were implemented; this occurred more commonly among the postgraduate year-3 and more junior residents. Orthopaedic trauma residents had the most difficulty adhering to the new duty-hour restrictions. Eighty-two percent of the respondents indicated that their residency programs have been forced to make changes to their call schedules or to hire ancillary staff to address the rules. The use of physician assistants, night-float systems, and so-called home-call assignments were the most common strategies used to achieve compliance.

CONCLUSION: Resident attitudes toward the work rules are mixed. The rules have forced residency programs to restructure. Junior residents have more favorable attitudes toward the new standards than do senior residents. Self-reporting of duty hours is the most common method of monitoring in orthopaedic training programs. Such systems allow ample opportunity for inaccuracies in the measurement of hours worked. Although residents report an improved quality of life as a result of these new rules, the attitude that the quality of training is diminished persists.





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Medicine and Health Sciences




Department of Surgery

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