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Quality of Patient Care not affected by Long Resident Hours, Study Says

Update Date: Feb 03, 2016 09:38 AM EST
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When surgical trainees, also known as residents, choose to work longer hours, the quality of patient care does not decline, a new study is reporting.

"It's counterintuitive to think it's better for doctors to work longer hours," said lead investigator Karl Bilimoria, MD, MS, FACS, a Faculty Scholar at the American College of Surgeons (ACS). "But when doctors have to hand off their patients to other doctors at dangerous, inopportune times, that creates vulnerability to the loss of critical information, a break in the doctor-patient relationship and unsafe care."

For this research, the team analyzed data gathered from 117 general surgery residency programs and 151 hospitals between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015. They wanted to see if patient care was affected by the flexibility of the residents' work hours. Residents could either choose to work longer shifts or take smaller breaks in between shifts in order to provide continual care.

The researchers found that enforcing more flexible work hours did not affect the quality of patient care. Flexible work hours also did not hurt the residents' satisfaction level, overall well-being and training. These measures were self-reported.

"Making duty hour policies more flexible for surgeons-in-training appears to be safe for patients and acceptable to the trainees," Bilimoria, who is also the director of the Surgical Outcomes and Quality Improvement Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said reported in the press release. "This is the first time we have high-level national prospective evidence to inform resident duty hour policies."

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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