Objective: To measure the effect of duty periods no longer than 16 hours on patient care and resident education.
Patients and methods: As part of our Educational Innovations Project, we piloted a novel resident schedule for an inpatient service that eliminated shifts longer than 16 hours without increased staffing or decreased patient admissions on 2 gastroenterology services from August 29 to November 27, 2009. Patient care variables were obtained through medical record review. Resident well-being and educational variables were collected by weekly surveys, end of rotation evaluations, and an electronic card-swipe system.
Results: Patient care metrics, including 30-day mortality, 30-day readmission rate, and length of stay, were unchanged for the 196 patient care episodes in the 5-week intervention month compared with the 274 episodes in the 8 weeks of control months. However, residents felt less prepared to manage cross-cover of patients (P = .006). There was a nonsignificant trend toward decreased perception of quality of education and balance of personal and professional life during the intervention month. Residents reported working fewer weekly hours overall during the intervention (64.3 vs 68.9 hours; P = .40), but they had significantly more episodes with fewer than 10 hours off between shifts (24 vs 2 episodes; P = .004).
Conclusion: Inpatient hospital services can be staffed with residents working shifts less than 16 hours without additional residents. However, cross-cover of care, quality of education, and time off between shifts may be adversely affected.