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Trial of shift scheduling with standardized sign-out to improve continuity of care in intensive care units*

Emlet, Lillian L. MD, MS; Al-Khafaji, Ali MD, MPH; Kim, Yeon Hee MS; Venkataraman, Ramesh MD; Rogers, Paul L. MD; Angus, Derek C. MD, MPH, FRCP

doi: 10.1097/CCM.0b013e3182657b5d
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Background: Since 2003, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education requires residency programs to restrict to 80 hrs/wk, averaged over 4 wks to improve patient safety. These restrictions force training programs with night call responsibilities to either maintain a traditional program with alternative night float schedules or adopt a “shift” model, both with increased handoffs.

Objective: To assess whether a 65 hrs/wk shift-work schedule combined with structured sign-out curriculum is equivalent to a 65 hrs/wk traditional day coverage with night call schedule, as measured by multiple assessments.

Design: Eight-month trial of shift-work schedule with structured sign-out curriculum (intervention) vs. traditional call schedule without curriculum (control) in alternating 1–2 month periods.

Setting: A mixed medical–surgical intensive care unit at a tertiary care academic center.

Subjects: Primary subjects: 19 fellows in a Multidisciplinary Critical Care Training Program; Secondary subjects: intensive care unit nurses and attending physicians, families of intensive care unit patients.

Interventions: Implementation of shift-work schedule, combined with structured sign-out curriculum.

Measurements: Workplace perception assessment through Continuity of Care Survey evaluation by faculty, fellows, and nurses through structured surveys; family assessment by the Critical Care Family Needs Index survey; clinical assessment through intensive care unit mortality, intensive care unit length of stay, and intensive care unit readmission within 48 hrs; and educational impact assessment by rate of fellow didactic lecture attendance.

Main Results: There were no statistically significant differences in surveyed perceptions of continuity of care, intensive care unit mortality (8.5% vs. 6.0%, p = .20), lecture attendance (43% vs. 42%), or family satisfaction (Critical Care Family Needs Index score 24 vs. 22) between control and intervention periods. There was a significant decrease in intensive care unit length of stay (8.4 vs. 5.7 days, p = .04) with the shift model. Readmissions within 48 hrs were not different (3.6% vs. 4.9%, p = .39). Nurses preferred the intervention period (7% control vs. 73% intervention, n = 30, p = .00), and attending faculty preferred the intervention period and felt continuity of care was maintained (15% control vs. 54% intervention, n = 11, p = .15).

Conclusions: A shift-work schedule with structured sign-out curriculum is a viable alternative to traditional work schedules for the intensive care unit in training programs.

From the Clinical Research, Investigation, and Systems Modeling of Acute Illness Laboratory (AA-K, DCA), Department of Critical Care Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; Multidisciplinary Critical Care Training Program (LLE, RV, PLR), Department of Critical Care Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; and Department of Biostatistics (YHK), Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA.

*See also p. 3305.

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The work for this study was performed at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

The authors have not disclosed any potential conflicts of interest.

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© 2012 by the Society of Critical Care Medicine and Lippincott Williams & Wilkins