A study of traditional every fourth night call compared to staggered shifts of every fifth night call or "night float" appeared in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Although interns working on the "night float" and every fifth night shifts got significantly more sleep than the control group of interns working longer shifts every fourth night, "both the every fifth night and night float models increased hand-offs, decreased availability for teaching conferences, and reduced intern presence during daytime work hours. Residents and nurses in both experimental models perceived reduced quality of care, so much so with night float that it was terminated early."
A JAMA Surgery paper surveyed 213 surgical interns from 11 university hospitals in July of 2011 and May of 2012. This was the first academic year that the new 16-hour limit was in force.
Although 82% of the interns reported a neutral or good quality of life, more than a quarter of them had symptoms of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization and 32% said their work-life balance was poor. Two-thirds said they thought about their satisfaction with being a surgeon daily or weekly and 14% said they considered dropping out of surgery training at least weekly.
Over half of the residents said that the work hours changes had decreased their time spent in the operating room, and at the end of their intern year, 44% said they did not believe that the work hours limits led to reduced fatigue.
So in both medicine and surgery, the 16-hour work restriction has resulted in unintended consequences.
As if that is not bad enough, check out this blockbuster. The title of a paper in Annals of Surgery this month is "General Surgery Residency Inadequately Prepares Trainees for Fellowship: Results of a North American Survey of Program Directors."
General surgery subspecialty fellowship directors were surveyed and 91 (63%) responded.
From the abstract: "21% [of fellowship program directors] felt that new fellows arrived unprepared for the operating room, 38% demonstrated lack of patient ownership, 30% could not independently perform a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, and 66% were deemed unable to operate for 30 unsupervised minutes of a major procedure. With regard to laparoscopic skills, 30% could not atraumatically manipulate tissue, 26% could not recognize anatomical planes, and 56% could not suture. Furthermore, 28% of fellows were not familiar with therapeutic options and 24% were unable to recognize early signs of complications." [Emphasis added]
Note that the residents in the Annals paper had not yet been subjected to the 16-hour work limits as that rule was not in effect when they were first-year trainees.
The good news is that by the end of their fellowship training, 82% could perform advanced cases independently. There was no word on the fate of the 18% who could not perform advanced cases independently.
Now that's reassuring, isn't it?