A Perspective on the Effect of the 80-Hour Work Week: Has It Changed the Graduating Orthopaedic Resident?

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Orthopaedic residency education has changed substantially in recent decades because of the imposition of the 80-hour work week, a decrease in quality and quantity of general surgical education, regulations mandating closer trainee supervision, and an expansion of orthopaedic subspecialty rotations. These factors pose a challenge in efforts to prepare competent, confident, cautious, caring, and communicative orthopaedic residents within the traditional 5-year program. Evidence suggests that contemporary graduates are more intelligent, better balanced in life and work, and more in touch with humanistic aspects of medicine than were earlier graduates. Yet insufficient competence and confidence in surgical skills after residency and a lack of “ownership” of patient care have become an increasing concern of educators and trainees. The concept of 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to achieve mastery of a technical skill applies to orthopaedic residency education. A different approach to graduate medical education must address the critical minimum training time required to achieve the necessary skills to support independent medical and surgical practice.

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