The 80-hour resident workweek does not adversely affect patient outcomes or resident education

Curr Surg. Nov-Dec 2006;63(6):435-9; discussion 440. doi: 10.1016/j.cursur.2006.03.006.


Purpose: To determine whether the 80-hour resident workweek adversely affects patient outcomes or resident education.

Methods: To assess patient outcomes, the authors reviewed trauma patient morbidity and mortality at the second busiest level I trauma center in Los Angeles County before (July 1998-June 2003, Period 1) and after (July 2003-June 2005, Period 2) implementation of the duty hour limitation via a retrospective review of a prospective database. All patients were operated and managed by residents under faculty supervision. Patient characteristics included the injury severity score (ISS), mechanism of injury, complications, and death. To assess resident education, the authors compared ABSITE percentile scores, first-time pass rates on the American Board of Surgery Qualifying and Certifying Examinations, and total and chief resident operative case volumes. In addition, they estimated institutional costs incurred to comply with the new duty hour rules.

Results: Patient outcomes. Over the entire 7-year study period, 11,518 trauma patients were transported to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Compared with Period 1, Period 2 experienced an increase in average yearly patient volume from 1510 to 1981 (p 0.01). The average ISS also increased, from 7.9 to 9.6 (p < 0.0001), as did the proportion of penetrating trauma from 14.8% to 17.6% (p < 0.0001). Morbidity and mortality rates remained unchanged. Resident education. Mean ABSITE scores and first-time Qualifying and Certifying Exam pass rates were unchanged. Mean resident total major case volumes increased significantly in Period 2 from 831 to 1156 (p < 0.0001), whereas chief resident year case volumes were unchanged. The estimated cost incurred by this institution to conform to the new work hour standards was approximately 359,000 dollars per year.

Conclusions: Despite concerns that the 80-hour workweek might threaten patient care and resident education, the morbidity and mortality rates at a busy level I trauma center remained unchanged. The quality of surgical resident education, as measured by operative volumes, ABSITE scores, and written and oral board examination pass rates were likewise unchanged. The reorganization of the authors' general surgery residency program to comply with the duty hour restrictions was achieved within reasonable cost.

MeSH terms

  • Burnout, Professional / prevention & control
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Education, Medical, Graduate
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling*
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Work Schedule Tolerance
  • Workload / statistics & numerical data*