The Educational Impact of ACGME Limits on Resident and Fellow Duty Hours: A Pre–Post Survey Study

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Abstract

Purpose

To assess the educational impact of Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education resident work-hour limits implemented in July 2003.

Method

All trainees in all 76 accredited programs at two large teaching hospitals were surveyed between May and June 2003 (before work-hour reductions) and then between May and June 2004 (after work-hour reductions) about hours, education, and fatigue. Based on changes in weekly duty hours, 13 programs experiencing substantial reduction in hours were classified into a reduced-hours group. Differences in assessments of educational endpoints before and after policy implementation by trainees in the reduced-hours group were compared with those in other programs to control for potential temporal trends, using two-way ANOVA with interaction.

Results

The number of respondents was 1,770 (60% response rate). The reduced-hours group reported a significant decrease in time spent directly caring for patients (from 48.5 to 42.3 mean h/wk, P = 0.03), but the volume of important clinical experiences, including procedures, was preserved, as was the sense of clinical preparedness. On 22 questions related to educational quality and adequacy, only three differences in differences were significant, with the reduced-hours group reporting a relative increase in opportunities for research, decrease in quality of faculty teaching, and decrease in educational satisfaction. The percentage of trainees reporting frequent negative effects of fatigue dropped more in the reduced-hours programs than in the other programs (P < 0.05).

Conclusion

This study shows that it may be possible to reduce residents’ hours—and the perceived adverse impact of fatigue—while generally preserving the self-assessed quality, quantity, and outcomes of graduate medical education.

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