Program Director Perceptions of Surgical Resident Training and Patient Care under Flexible Duty Hour Requirements

J Am Coll Surg. 2016 Jun;222(6):1098-105. doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2016.03.026. Epub 2016 Apr 4.


Background: The Flexibility in Duty Hour Requirements for Surgical Trainees (FIRST) trial was a national, cluster-randomized, pragmatic, noninferiority trial of 117 general surgery programs, comparing standard ACGME resident duty hour requirements ("Standard Policy") to flexible, less-restrictive policies ("Flexible Policy"). Participating program directors (PDs) were surveyed to assess their perceptions of patient care, resident education, and resident well-being during the study period.

Study design: A survey was sent to all PDs of the general surgery residency programs participating in the FIRST trial (N = 117 [100% response rate]) in June and July 2015. The survey compared PDs' perceptions of the duty hour requirements in their arm of the FIRST trial during the study period from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015.

Results: One hundred percent of PDs in the Flexible Policy arm indicated that residents used their additional flexibility in duty hours to complete operations they started or to stabilize a critically ill patient. Compared with the Standard Policy arm, PDs in the Flexible Policy arm perceived a more positive effect of duty hours on the safety of patient care (68.9% vs 0%; p < 0.001), continuity of care (98.3% vs 0%; p < 0.001), and resident ability to attend educational activities (74.1% vs 3.4%; p < 0.001). Most PDs in both arms reported that safety of patient care (71.8%), continuity of care (94.0%), quality of resident education (83.8%), and resident well-being (55.6%) would be improved with a hypothetical permanent adoption of more flexible duty hours.

Conclusions: Program directors involved in the FIRST trial perceived improvements in patient safety, continuity of care, and multiple aspects of resident education and well-being with flexible duty hours.

Trial registration: NCT02050789.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Pragmatic Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accreditation
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Continuity of Patient Care / organization & administration
  • Faculty, Medical*
  • General Surgery / education*
  • General Surgery / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / organization & administration*
  • Patient Care / standards*
  • Patient Safety / standards
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling / standards*
  • Prospective Studies
  • United States
  • Workload / standards*

Associated data