Effect of the 16-Hour Work Limit on General Surgery Intern Operative Case Volume: A Multi-institutional Study

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Abstract

IMPORTANCE

The 80-hour work-week limit for all residents was instituted in 2003 and studies looking at its effect have been mixed. Since the advent of the 16-hour mandate for postgraduate year 1 residents in July 2011, no data have been published regarding the effect of this additional work-hour restriction.

OBJECTIVE

To determine whether the 16-hour intern work limit, implemented in July 2011, has adversely affected operative experience.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS

A retrospective review of categorical postgraduate year 1 Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education case logs from the intern class (N = 52) (with 16-hour work limit) compared with the 4 preceding years (2007-2010; N = 197) (without 16-hour work limit). A total of 249 categorical general surgery interns from 10 general surgery residency programs in the western United States were included.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES

Total, major, first-assistant, and defined-category case totals.

RESULTS

As compared with the preceding 4 years, the 2011-2012 interns recorded a 25.8% decrease in total operative cases (65.9 vs 88.8, P = .005), a 31.8% decrease in major cases (54.9 vs 80.5, P < .001), and a 46.3% decrease in first-assistant cases (11.1 vs 20.7, P = .008). There were statistically significant decreases in cases within the defined categories of abdomen, endocrine, head and neck, basic laparoscopy, complex laparoscopy, pediatrics, thoracic, and soft tissue/breast surgery in the 16-hour shift intern era, whereas there was no decrease in trauma, vascular, alimentary, endoscopy, liver, and pancreas cases.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE

The 16-hour work limit for interns, implemented in July 2011, is associated with a significant decrease in categorical intern operative experience. If the 16-hour shift were to be extended to all postgraduate year levels, one can anticipate that additional years of training will be needed to maintain the same operative volume.

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