The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) Work-Hours Duty Policy became effective on July 1, 2003, mandating the reduction of resident duty work hours. The Baylor College of Medicine Multi-Institutional Integrated Plastic Surgery Program instituted a resident duty work-hours policy on July 1, 2002 (1 year ahead of the national mandate). Outcomes data are needed to facilitate continuous improvements in plastic surgical residency training while maintaining high-quality patient care. To assess the effect of this policy intervention on plastic surgery resident education as measured through the six core competencies and patient/resident safety, the investigators surveyed all categorical plastic surgery residents 6 months after implementation of the policy. This work represents the first empiric study investigating the effect of duty hours reduction on plastic surgery training and education.
The categorical plastic surgery residents at the Baylor College of Medicine Multi-Institutional Integrated Plastic Surgery Program completed a 68-item survey on a five-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree). Residents were asked to rate multiple parameters based on the ACGME six core competencies, including statements on patient care and clinical/operative duties, resident education, resident quality of life, and resident perceptions on this policy. All surveys were completed anonymously. The sample size was n = 12 (program year 3 through program year 6), with a 100 percent response rate. Univariate and bivariate statistical analysis was conducted with SPSS version 10.0 statistical software. Specifically, interquartile deviations were used to find consensus among resident responses to each statement.
Descriptive statistics indicated higher percentages of agreement on a majority of statements in three categories, including patient care and clinical/operative duties, academic duties, and resident quality of life. Using interquartile deviation, the highest levels of consensus among the residents were found in positive statements addressing resident alertness (both in and out of the operative environment), time to read/prepare for cases/conferences, efficacy of the didactic curriculum, and overall satisfaction with this policy for surgery resident education. Residents also felt that their patients favored this work hours policy. In addition, there was high consensus that this policy improved overall patient care. The majority of residents identified a negative effect of this policy through an increase in cross-coverage responsibilities, however, and half of the residents perceived that faculty negatively viewed their unavailability postcall. In addition, no consensus among the residents was achieved regarding perceptions on overall weekly operative experience.
Plastic surgery residents perceived that the reduction of resident work hours through adherence to the ACGME guidelines has beneficial effects on patient care and clinical/operative duties, academic duties, and resident quality of life. Residents felt, however, that these benefits may increase cross-coverage workloads. Furthermore, residents were concerned about faculty perception of their changes in postcall duties. In contrast to previously published findings in the general surgery literature, the current results indicate that residents do not believe that this policy negatively affects continuity of patient care. In fact, the current findings suggest that adherence to this policy improves patient care on multiple levels. The effect on the operative experience remains to be elucidated. Further large-scale and longitudinal research design and analysis is warranted to better assess the results of the ACGME resident duty work-hours policy in plastic surgery resident education.