Why Residents Consider Working Beyond the Duty Hour Limits: Implications of the ACGME 2011 Duty Hour Standards

J Grad Med Educ. 2011 Dec;3(4):571-3. doi: 10.4300/JGME-D-11-00069.1.


Background: The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education 2011 duty hour standards became effective on 7 1, 2011. One of the new standards allows residents to exceed the limit on continuous duty hours in unusual circumstances relating to patient or family need or rare educational opportunities. There are no data about how often or in what circumstances residents would consider exceeding their duty hour limits using this new provision in the standards. We surveyed internal medicine residents to explore these questions.

Methods: We conducted an anonymous cross-sectional survey of internal medicine residents at a midwestern tertiary-care hospital to determine how often they had considered exceeding duty hour limits in the preceding 2 weeks. We analyzed responses using descriptive statistics and χ(2) tests for comparisons.

Results: We obtained responses from 51 of 86 residents (59%). Of those residents, 69% (35/51) indicated that they had wanted to exceed duty hour limits at least once in the prior 2 weeks. The most common reason cited was to provide continuity of care for a patient. The 24 + 6-hour rule was the standard most likely to be broken (cited by 66%; 23/35).

Conclusions: Program leadership should anticipate that residents will commonly identify situations in which they will consider exceeding duty hour limits. It will be important to provide guidance to residents early in the year about the situations that would be appropriate for the application of this new standard.