Background: The impact of strict enforcement of Section 405 of the New York State Public Health Code to restrict resident work to eighty hours per week and the adoption of a similar policy by the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education in 2002 for orthopaedic residency training have not been evaluated. Adoption of these rules has created accreditation as well as staffing problems and has generated controversy in the surgical training community. The purposes of this study were (1) to evaluate the attitudes of orthopaedic residents and attending surgeons toward the Code 405 work-hour regulations and the effect of those regulations on the perceived quality of residency training, quality of life, and patient care and (2) to quantify the effect of the work-hour restrictions on the actual number of hours worked.
Methods: We administered a thirty-four-question Likert-style questionnaire to forty-eight orthopaedic surgery residents (postgraduate years [PGY]-2 through 5) and a similar twenty-nine-question Likert-style questionnaire to thirty-nine orthopaedic attending surgeons. All questionnaires were collected anonymously and analyzed. Additionally, resident work hours before and after strict enforcement of the Code 405 regulations were obtained from resident time sheets.
Results: The average weekly work hours decreased from 89.25 to 74.25 hours for PGY-2 residents and from 86.5 to 73.25 hours for PGY-3 residents, and they increased from 61.5 to 68.5 hours for PGY-4 residents. Residents at all levels felt that they had increased time available for reading. There was general agreement between attending and resident surgeons that their operating experience had been negatively impacted. Senior residents thought that their education had been negatively affected, while junior residents thought that their operating experience in general had been negatively affected. Senior residents and attending surgeons felt that continuity of care had been negatively impacted. All agreed that quality of life for the residents had improved and that residents were more rested.
Conclusions: On the basis of the survey data, the implementation of the new work-hour restrictions was found to result in a decrease in the number of hours worked per week for PGY-2 and PGY-3 residents and in an increase in work hours for PGY-4 residents. This could explain the definite difference between the attitudes expressed by the senior residents and those of the junior residents. Senior residents felt that their education was negatively impacted by the work rules, while junior residents expressed a more neutral view. However, senior residents did not believe that their operative experience was as negatively impacted as did junior residents. Although junior and senior residents and attending surgeons agreed that resident quality of life had improved, we were not able to determine whether this offset the perceived negative impact on education, continuity of care, and operative experience.
1 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, New York University-Hospital for Joint Diseases, 301 East 17th Street, 14th Floor, New York, NY 10003. E-mail address for J.D. Zuckerman: email@example.com