A questionnaire inquiring about existing and desirable work and patterns appeared in a newsletter mailed to about 22,000 anesthesiologists and anesthesiology residents and 24,000 nurse anesthetists (CRNA). Almost 3,000 anonymous replies were received and analyzed. Respondents reported mean work weeks of 47.5 h (CRNA) to 69.8 h (residents), longest continuous period of administering anesthesia without a break of 6.6 h (CRNA) to 7.7 h (residents), and longest period of administering anesthesia with or without breaks of 14.1 h (CRNA) to 20 h (resident). However, the respondents considered it safe to administer anesthesia without a break for 4.2 (CRNA) to 5.2 h (anesthesiologists) and with break for 12.8 h (CRNA) to 15 h (residents). A substantial number of respondents believed that they work at least occasionally beyond their perceived self-limitations. The majority of respondents recalled having made errors in the administration of anesthesia that they attributed to fatigue. These results may not be representative of work patterns or attitudes among American anesthesia providers because of the small sample size and the resultant potential for bias. Yet, the subject deserves attention and further study because fatigue can affect professional performance, ability to learn, and family life.
(C) 1990 American Society of Anesthesiologists, Inc.