Study: Surgical residents object to work hour restrictions

Think it's just hospitals and teachers who are complaining about resident work hour limitations? Apparently, the residents themselves aren't happy with hourly work rules either, according to a new survey published in the July issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Since 2003, duty hour regulations have been in place that limit residents to an 80-hour work week. Since then, studies have shown that residents are getting more hours of sleep, and that their personal lives have been more comfortable.

However, it's still not clear what impact these rules have had on patient case loads, academic performance and board exam performance. Most importantly, it's still not clear what effect, if any, the rules have had on patient care; some observers say that anecdotal evidence is mounting that there's been a growing number of communication errors due to more-frequent patient handoffs.

The study, distributed electronically to all resident and associate members of the American College of Surgeons, asked the respondents to rate the impact of work-hour limits as posing "no barrier," a "minimal barrier," "moderate barrier" and "significant barrier" to their education. It found that almost half of surgical residents felt work-hour restrictions did have a negative impact.

When asked about ideal schedules, 52 percent did say that a schedule of 60 to 80 hours was appropriate, but 43 percent said 80 to 100 hours would suffice.

To learn more about this study:
- read this American College of Surgeons press release

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