Background: Mandatory work hour limitations for residents began in July 2003. There has been little evaluation of the impact of the new limitations on Internal Medicine residency training.
Objective: To assess Internal Medicine residents' perceptions of the impact of work hour limitations on clinical experiences, patient care, resident education, and well-being, and their compliance with the limitations.
Design and participants: Cross-sectional survey administered to Internal Medicine residents at 1 large U.S. teaching hospital.
Measurements: Resident perceptions using 5-point Likert scales, and self-reported compliance. Exploratory factor analysis was used to identify underlying domains and develop scales.
Results: The survey response rate was 85%. Five domains were identified by factor analysis: 1) clinical experience, 2) patient care and safety, 3) communication, 4) satisfaction with training, and 5) work-rest balance. Residents perceived work hour limitations to have a negative impact on clinical experience (mean scale score 1.84, 1 = negative, 5 = positive), patient care and safety (2.64), and communication domains (1.98). Effects on satisfaction (3.12) and work-rest balance domains (2.95) were more positive. Senior residents perceived more negative effects of work hour limitations than interns. Compliance was difficult; 94% interns and 70% residents reported violating work hour limits. Patient care and teaching duties were the main reasons for work hour violations.
Conclusions: This study suggests that the current work hour limitations may be having unintended negative consequences on residency training. Ongoing monitoring to evaluate the impact of program changes as a result of work hour regulation is crucial to improving residency training.