The effect of the 16-hour intern workday restriction on surgical residents' in-hospital activities

J Surg Educ. 2013 Nov-Dec;70(6):800-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2013.02.001. Epub 2013 Apr 9.


Objective: To observe the effects of the 2011 Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education 16-hour intern workday restrictions on surgical residents' clinical and educational activities.

Design: All the residents recorded the following weekly in-hospital activities during February and March 2011 (year before intern work restrictions) and 2012 (first year under new requirements): operating room (OR) and clinic; bedside procedures; rounds and ward work; on-call duties in hospital; communication (e.g., checkouts and family and patient discussions); education (conferences and study); and personal (rest and meals). Descriptive statistics were calculated in 3 resident groups (interns, first postgraduate year [PGY1]; junior, PGY2 and 3; and senior, PGY4 and 5). The unpaired t test was used to compare data between 2011 and 2012; significance was set at p< 0.05.

Setting: Medical school affiliated hospital.

Participants: Categorical resident trainees in surgery, PGY1-5, 4 residents per level, with all 20 residents participating in the study.

Results: From 2011 to 2012, time spent in the hospital by the intern did not change (all results in h/wk, mean±standard deviation: 68.5±13.8 to 72.8±15.8, respectively) but the time devoted to specific activities changed significantly. In-hospital personal time decreased by 50% (5.3±4.6 to 2.6±2.0, p = 0.004). Interns spent less time placing central lines (2.1±2.2 to 0.9±1.2, p = 0.006) and more on rounds (8.8±8.8 to 14.2±9.8, p = 0.027), which included supervision with upper level residents. There was no change in the total time spent in the OR, the clinic, performing bedside procedures, and educational activities. Changes in intern work did not affect the time junior and senior residents spent on bedside procedures, time spent in the clinic, and total time spent in the hospital. In 2012, junior residents spent less time in educational activities (11.4±8.5 to 7.0±4.5, p = 0.0007) and the seniors spent more time in the OR (13.7±7.5 to 20.6±10.7, p = 0.0002).

Conclusions: The 16-hour restriction preserved interns' educational activities and time spent in the OR and clinic, but changed resident work activities at all levels. The time spent on rounds increased, time spent by the juniors on conferences decreased, and time spent by senior residents in the OR increased. Duty restrictions in general and intern supervision requirements demand ongoing adjustments in resident work schedules.

Keywords: Patient Care; Professionalism; System-Based Practice; duty-hour restrictions; resident work; surgical training; time-motion study.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accreditation
  • Adult
  • Appointments and Schedules
  • Cohort Studies
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / organization & administration
  • Female
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / organization & administration*
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time and Motion Studies
  • Work Schedule Tolerance*
  • Workload / statistics & numerical data*