Duty Hour Reform in a Shifting Medical Landscape

J Gen Intern Med. 2013 Sep;28(9):1238-40. doi: 10.1007/s11606-013-2439-8.


The circumstances that led to the death of Libby Zion in 1984 prompted national discussions about the impact of resident fatigue on patient outcomes. Nearly 30 years later, national duty hour reforms largely motivated by patient safety concerns have demonstrated a negligible impact of duty hour reductions on patient mortality. We suggest that the lack of an impact of duty hour reforms on patient mortality is due to a different medical landscape today than existed in 1984. Improvements in quality of care made possible by computerized order entry, automated medication checks, inpatient pharmacists, and increased resident supervision have, among other systemic changes, diminished the adverse impact that resident fatigue is able to have on patient outcomes. Given this new medical landscape, advocacy towards current and future duty hour reforms may be best justified by evidence of the impact of duty hour reform on resident wellbeing, education, and burnout.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care / trends
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / organization & administration
  • Fatigue / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / organization & administration*
  • Patient Safety
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling / organization & administration*
  • Physician Impairment
  • United States
  • Work Schedule Tolerance
  • Workload