Medical residents give thumbs-up to 80-hour limit

General surgery and ob-gyn residents, however, cited some negatives to the restrictions.

By Myrle Croasdale — Posted Sept. 12, 2005

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Overall, medical residents see the restrictions capping their work hours at 80 per week as positive for patient safety and for their own well-being, according to a survey released in the July Journal of the American Osteopathic Assn.

However, residents' views varied by discipline and gender. Family and internal medicine residents were more likely to see the change in hours as positive, while general surgery and ob-gyn residents generally saw the reduction as negative. In terms of gender, women were more positive about the restrictions than men.

Susan Zonia, PhD, lead author of the study and associate director of medical education at Oakwood Southshore Medical Center in Trenton, Mich., said the survey, which was conducted seven months after the new hours were instituted, showed that lost continuity was the biggest concern residents voiced.

For example, she said, before the new limits, ob-gyn residents might miss the delivery of a patient they'd been following if they were on vacation. With the new requirements instituted July 1, 2003, their chances of missing patients' delivery dates increase. If residents already met their 80 hours, they wouldn't be able to stay for a delivery.

Residents in family medicine, internal medicine, general surgery and ob-gyn at four teaching hospitals in Michigan were surveyed. Of the 227 asked to participate, 128 responded.

The survey included questions about patient safety, resident education and personal well-being. It also asked residents whether the work-hour limits would increase their debt load by limiting moonlighting opportunities, but most indicated this was not an issue,

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