Limiting PGY 1 residents to 16 hours of duty: review and report of a workshop

J Surg Educ. 2012 May-Jun;69(3):355-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2011.10.013. Epub 2011 Dec 13.


Background: In 2003, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) instituted limits on duty hours. Residents were restricted to working 80 hours/week and limited to 24 hours of continuous patient care. Effective July 2011, an additional restriction will be instituted for PGY 1 residents limiting continuous duty to 16 hours maximum.

Objective: Prospective evaluation of the impact of the upcoming work shift limitations for PGY 1 residents.

Design/setting/participants: Review of literature and discussions among program directors, program coordinators, and residents on the effects of prior limitations of duty hours, as a point of reference, to manage the changes of duty hours for PGY 1 residents during a workshop at the Association of Program Directors in Surgery Annual Meeting.

Results: Work-hour restrictions necessitate a change from the traditional 24-hour on-duty call schedule for PGY 1 residents. The benefits to patients of being treated by less tired doctors working in shifts may be offset by communication failures from poor handoffs, rendering the system prone to adverse events/near misses. With additional work-hour restrictions, it is imperative to anticipate problems and deal with them effectively. Continued reevaluation of the handoff system and efforts made to decrease the number of preventable adverse events that typically occur during periods of cross coverage should be undertaken. Labor costs to carry out these new restrictions are predictably high but can be made budget neutral if improvement in patient care leads to reduction in the costs of corrective actions.

Conclusions: Residency programs have adapted to the 2003 work-hour restrictions without apparent ill effect. We must study the effects of the July 2011 requirements prospectively as the traditional frontline physicians (PGY 1 residents) will no longer be available for 24-hour duty shifts.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / organization & administration*
  • Male
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling / standards*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • Work Schedule Tolerance
  • Workload / standards*