Effects of reducing or eliminating resident work shifts over 16 hours: a systematic review

Sleep. 2010 Aug;33(8):1043-53. doi: 10.1093/sleep/33.8.1043.


Study objectives: The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has called for the elimination of resident work shifts exceeding 16 hours without sleep. We sought to comprehensively evaluate the effects of eliminating or reducing shifts over 16 hours.

Design and outcome measures: We performed a systematic review of published and unpublished studies (1950-2008) to synthesize data on all intervention studies that have reduced or eliminated U.S. residents' extended shifts. A total of 2,984 citations were identified initially, which were independently reviewed by two authors to determine their eligibility for inclusion. All outcomes relevant to quality of life, education, and safety were collected. Study quality was rated using the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force methodology.

Measurements and results: Twenty-three studies met inclusion criteria (kappa = 0.88 [95% CI, 0.77-0.94] for inclusion decisions). Following reduction or elimination of extended shifts, 8 of 8 studies measuring resident quality of life found improvements. Four of 14 studies that assessed educational outcomes found improvements, 9 found no significant changes, and one found education worsened. Seven of 11 identified statistically significant improvements in patient safety or quality of care; no studies found that safety or care quality worsened.

Conclusions: In a systematic review, we found that reduction or elimination of resident work shifts exceeding 16 hours did not adversely affect resident education, and was associated with improvements in patient safety and resident quality of life in most studies. Further multi-center studies are needed to substantiate these findings, and definitively measure the effects of eliminating extended shifts on patient outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / statistics & numerical data*
  • Quality of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Safety / statistics & numerical data
  • Work Schedule Tolerance / psychology*