The impact of work hour restrictions on surgical resident education

J Surg Educ. 2008 Jan-Feb;65(1):54-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2007.08.008.


Objective: Resident work-hour restrictions were instituted in July 2003 based on ACGME mandates. The American Board of Surgery In-Training Examination (ABSITE), American Board of Surgery Qualifying Examination (ABSQE), and operative volume traditionally have been measures of surgical resident education and competency. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of reduced work hours on resident standardized test scores and operative volume at our institution.

Design: We reviewed ABSITE scores, ABSQE scores, and operative logs from 1997 to 2005 of all general surgery residents. Linear mixed-effects models were fitted for each component ABSITE score (total, basic science, and clinical management), and they were compared using a chi-squared likelihood ratio. Operative logs of graduating residents were compared before and after the work restrictions and were evaluated for association with ABSITE score. p-values less than 0.05 were considered significant.

Results: The program was compliant with ACGME mandates within 6 months of institution. ABSITE scores improved significantly after the restriction of work hours in both basic science (p = 0.003) and total score (p = 0.008). Clinical management scores were not affected. The number of major cases recorded by graduating residents did not change. A positive correlation was found between number of cases performed during residency and clinical management ABSITE scores (p = 0.045). ABSQE scores were not impacted by operative volume during residency.

Conclusions: ABSITE scores improved significantly after the restriction of resident work hours. Resident operative experience was not affected. An unexpected consequence of work-hour restrictions may be an improvement in surgical resident education.

MeSH terms

  • Burnout, Professional / prevention & control*
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / methods
  • Female
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Male
  • Occupational Health
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Probability
  • Sleep Deprivation / prevention & control
  • Surgery Department, Hospital
  • United States
  • Work Schedule Tolerance
  • Workload / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Young Adult