June 2015

Making the Case for Investigating Flexibility in Duty Hour Limits for Surgical Residents

Author Affiliations
  • 1Surgical Outcomes and Quality Improvement Center (SOQIC), Department of Surgery, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois
  • 2American College of Surgeons, Chicago, Illinois
  • 3American Board of Surgery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Copyright 2015 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.

JAMA Surg. 2015;150(6):503-504. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2015.0239

Restrictions on the number of hours that resident physicians can work continue to ignite tremendous controversy among stakeholders. The debate predominantly concerns whether restrictions enhance or endanger patient safety and resident education. The purported benefits of duty hour limits are fairly evident: well-rested residents will be less prone to error and burnout, and they will have more time to study their field. While this may sound logical, it may actually be that duty hour restrictions disrupt continuity of care because the physician who knows the patient best may not follow the patient through critical phases of their hospitalization, stabilization, or surgery. The resulting handoffs may compromise patient safety and reduce continuous contact time and hands-on experiences for trainees.

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