A time and motion study of junior doctor work patterns on the weekend: a potential contributor to the weekend effect?

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Abstract

Background:

Patients admitted to hospital on weekends have a greater risk of mortality compared to patients admitted on weekdays. Junior medical officers (JMO) make up the majority of medical staff on weekends. No previous study has quantified JMO work patterns on weekends.

Aim:

To describe and quantify JMO work patterns on weekends and compare them with patterns previously observed during the week.

Methods:

Observational time and motion study of JMO working weekends using the Work Observation Method by Activity Timing (WOMBAT; Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia) software. Descriptive statistics were used to determine the proportion of total observed time spent in tasks.

Results:

Weekend JMO predominately spent time in indirect care (32.0%), direct care (23.0%) and professional communication (22.1%). JMO spent 20.9% of time multitasking and were interrupted, on average, every 9 min. Weekend JMO spent significantly more time in direct care compared with weekdays (13.0%; P < 0.001) and nights (14.3%; P < 0.001). Weekend JMO spent significantly less time on breaks (8.5%), with less than 1 h in an 11-h shift, compared with JMO during weekdays (16.4%; P = 0.004) and nights (27.6%; P = <0.001). Weekend JMO were interrupted at a higher rate (6.6/h) than on weekdays (rate ratio (RR) 2.9, 95% confidence intervals (CI) 2.6, 3.3) or nights (RR 5.1, 95% CI 4.2, 6.1). Multitasking on weekends (20.9%) was comparable to weekdays (18.9%; P = 0.19) but significantly higher than nights (6.4%; P = <0.001).

Conclusion:

On weekends, JMO had few breaks, were interrupted frequently and engaged in high levels of multitasking. This pattern of JMO work could be a potential contributing factor to the weekend effect in terms of JMO abilities to respond safely and adequately to care demands.

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