Where have all the giants gone? Reconciling medical education and the traditions of patient care with limitations on resident work hours

Perspect Biol Med. 2003 Spring;46(2):273-82. doi: 10.1353/pbm.2003.0026.


The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education recently approved regulations that would prohibit residents from working more than 80 hours per week and more than 24 hours at a stretch. These regulations are scheduled to take effect in all U.S. teaching hospitals on 1 July 2003. Those who approve of the proposed regulations argue that house staff fatigue is responsible for physician error, depression, anger, and a lack of compassion for patients. But critics point to the adverse effects on key goals of house staff training--the development of accountability and responsibility. Can the rigorous discipline of medical education and the long tradition of medicine as a profession be reconciled with the current calls for limiting resident duty hours and on-call schedules? The intensity of patient care in teaching hospitals today is far greater than it was in the past. These changes in medical care make it critical to develop new programs that will reconcile rigorous, scientifically based humanistic medicine with the needs of patients and physicians. This will require imaginative and creative solutions that take a larger view of medical education and medical care than mere manpower calculations and numerical solutions focused simply on compliance with an 80-hour work week.

MeSH terms

  • Accreditation / standards
  • Computers
  • Education, Medical, Graduate*
  • Hospitals, Teaching*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Patient Care / trends*
  • Patient Care Team
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • Work Schedule Tolerance
  • Workforce
  • Workload / standards