Objective: To assess the impact of the 80-hour resident workweek restrictions on surgical residents and attending surgeons.
Summary background data: The ACGME mandated resident duty hour restrictions have required a major workforce restructuring. The impact of these changes needs to be critically evaluated for both the resident and attending surgeons, specifically with regards to the impact on motivation, job satisfaction, the quality of surgeon training, the quality of the surgeon's life, and the quality of patient care.
Methods: Four prospective studies were performed at a single academic surgical program with data collected both before the necessary workforce restructuring and 1 year after, including: 1) time cards to assess changes in components of daily activity; 2) Web-based surveys using validated instruments to assess burnout and motivation to work; 3) structured, taped, one-on-one interviews with an external PhD investigator; and 4) statistical analyses of objective, quantitative data.
Results: After the work-hour changes, surgical residents have decreased "burnout" scores, with significantly less "emotional exhaustion" (Maslach Burnout Inventory: 29.1 "high" vs. 23.1 "medium," P = 0.02). Residents have better quality of life both in and out of the hospital. They felt they got more sleep, have a lighter workload, and have increased motivation to work (Herzberg Motivation Dimensions). We found no measurable, statistically significant difference in the quality of patient care (NSQIP data). Resident training and education objectively were not statistically diminished (ACGME case logs, ABSITE scores). Attending surgeons perceived that their quality of their life inside and outside of the hospital was "somewhat worse" because of the work-hour changes, as they had anticipated. Many concerns were identified with regards to the professional development of future surgeons, including a change toward a shift-worker mentality that is not patient-focused, less continuity of care with a loss of critical information with each handoff, and a decrease in the patient/doctor relationship.
Conclusion: Although the mandated restriction of resident duty hours has had no measurable impact on the quality of patient care and has led to improvements for the current quality of life of residents, there are many concerns with regards to the training of professional, responsible surgeons for the future.