Resident productivity: does shift length matter?

Am J Emerg Med. 2008 Sep;26(7):789-91. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2007.10.037.


Background: It has been established that residents are able to evaluate more patients per hour as they progress through training. However, it is unknown if shift length influences resident productivity.

Objectives: The aim of this study is to assess whether there is a difference in second-year resident productivity as a function of shift length.

Methods: This is a retrospective chart review of patients evaluated in the emergency department (ED) by second-year residents in a 65,000 volume center; 9- and 12-hour shifts were included. Nine-hour shifts provide a 1-hour overlap, such that three 9-hour shifts provide 24 hours of resident coverage. Shifts on weekly conference day were excluded. A patient was determined as having been evaluated by a resident if the resident initiated care on the patient and dictated the chart. Data were analyzed using 2-tailed t test.

Results: A total of 193 nine-hour shifts and 90 twelve-hour shifts met inclusion criteria. Residents working 12-hour shifts evaluated 1.06 patients per hour, and residents working 9-hour shifts evaluated 1.15 patients per hour (95% confidence interval, 0.031-0.151). In an ED with 120 hours of resident coverage per day, this results in 10 additional patients seen by residents working 9-hour shifts. In our department with 9 ED months in the second year of residency, this results in 180 additional patient encounters per resident during that year.

Conclusions: Shorter shift lengths appear to result in more patients evaluated per hour by second-year residents and an increase in patient encounters.

MeSH terms

  • Efficiency*
  • Emergency Medicine / education*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / organization & administration*
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Work Schedule Tolerance*