A thematic review of resident commentary on duty hours and supervision regulations

J Grad Med Educ. 2012 Dec;4(4):454-9. doi: 10.4300/JGME-D-11-00259.1.


Background: The implementation on July 1, 2011, of new Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) standards for resident supervision and duty hours has prompted considerable debate about the potential positive and negative effects of these changes on patient care and resident education. A recent large-sample study analyzed resident responses to these changes, using a Likert scale response. In this same study, 874 residents also provided free-text comments, which provide added insight into resident perspectives on duty hours and supervision.

Methods: A mixed-methods quantitative and qualitative survey of residents was conducted in August 2010 to assess resident perceptions of the proposed ACGME regulations. Common concerns in the residents' free responses were synthesized and quantified using content analysis, a common method for qualitative research.

Results: A total of 11 617 residents received the survey. Completed surveys were received from 2561 residents (22.0%), with 874 residents (34.1%) providing free-text responses. Most residents (83.0%) expressed unfavorable opinions about the new standards. The most frequently cited concerns included coverage issues, and a negative impact on patient care and education, as well as lack of preparation for senior roles. A smaller portion of residents commented they thought the standards would contribute to improvements in quality of life (36.1%) and patient care (4.9%).

Conclusions: ACGME standards are important for graduate medical education, and their aim is to promote high-quality education and better care to patients in teaching institutions. Yet, many residents are concerned about the day-to-day impact of the 2011 regulations, in particular the 16-hour duty period for interns. Most residents who provided free-text responses had a negative impression of the new ACGME regulations. Residents' resistance to duty hour changes may represent a realization that residents are losing a central role in patient care. The concerns identified in this study demonstrate important issues for administrators and policymakers. Resident ideas and opinions should be considered in future revisions of ACGME requirements.