Do restricted work hours for residents mirror the reality of practice?

February 1, 2004



Not according to one recent study. Restrictions on the work hours of residents do not reflect the actual hours put in by obstetricians and gynecologists once they enter clinical practice, according to a study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (9/03).

In response to legislative bills on the state and federal level to limit residents' work hours in the name of patient safety, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education implemented its own restrictions. Effective July 1, 2003, the total number of hours worked by residents must be less than 80 per week averaged over 4 weeks, and on-call duty can be no more frequent than every third night, among other restrictions.

Researchers from the University of Texas Medical School found that, while the restrictions improved the quality of life for residents, they did not reflect the life of a Houston ob/gyn after training. Specifically, the researchers found that 62 of 100 ob/gyns who returned valid surveys about their work hours put in more than 80 hours per week. Moreover, more than half of the ob/gyns surveyed (55%) said they had on-call duty more frequently than every third night. Sixteen physicians said they covered all of their own on-call duty, and 32 covered their own on-call duty during the week with shared weekends.