Duty-Hour Restrictions and the Work of Surgical Faculty: Results of a Multi-Institutional Study

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Abstract

Purpose

To examine whether duty-hour restrictions have been consequential for various aspects of the work of surgical faculty and if those consequences differ for faculty in academic and nonacademic general surgery residency programs.

Method

Questionnaires were distributed in 2004 to 233 faculty members in five academic and four nonacademic U.S. residency programs in general surgery. Participation was restricted to those who had been faculty for at least one year. Ten items on the questionnaire probed faculty work experiences. Results include means, percentages, and t-tests on mean differences. Of the 146 faculty members (63%) who completed the questionnaire, 101 volunteered to be interviewed. Of these, 28 were randomly chosen for follow-up interviews that probed experiences and rationales underlying items on the questionnaire. Interview transcripts (187 single-spaced pages) were analyzed for main themes.

Results

Questionnaire respondents and interviewees associated duty-hour restrictions with lowered faculty expectations and standards for residents, little change in the supervision of residents, a loss of time for teaching, increased work and stress, and less satisfaction. No significant differences in these perceptions (p ≪ .05) were found for faculty in academic and nonacademic programs. Main themes from the interviews included a shift of routine work from residents to faculty, a transfer of responsibility to faculty, more frequent skill gaps at night, a loss of time for research, and the challenges of controlling residents’ hours.

Conclusions

Duty-hour restrictions have been consequential for the work of surgical faculty. Faculty should not be overlooked in future studies of duty-hour restrictions.

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