Resident Work Hours and Working Environment in Otolaryngology: Analysis of Daily Activity and Resident Perception

Chester L. Strunk, Byron J. Bailey, Bruce A. Scott, Charles W. Cummings, Frank E. Lucente, Charles W. Beatty, H. Bryan Neel, Harold C. Pillsbury, Dale H. Rice, Michael D. Bryan, James A. Hokanson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objective.—To analyze the working environment and work hours of a cohort of otolaryngology—head and neck surgery residents. Design.—Environmental analysis questionnaire and a log of daily activities. Setting.—Residents were on a clinical rotation system. Participants.—Fifty-nine residents from six programs, including three public and three private institutions, from geographically diverse regions of the country were involved in the study. Residents were equally distributed from their second year through their fifth year of postgraduate work. All eligible residents participated in and completed the study. Intervention.—The environmental analysis survey was designed to elicit resident perception of different aspects of their working environment. The daily activity log required the resident to report on activities for each half-hour period for 7 consecutive days. Results.—Residents were on call an average of 52.8 hours (2.2 days) and worked 79.4 hours per week. Seventy-five percent believed that the level of faculty supervision and the degree of resident responsibility was about right. Two major inefficiencies were the time involved in completion of paperwork and the lack of nonmedical support services. Thirty-one percent of the residents responded that fatigue resulted in substandard patient care 10% of the time. Forty-seven percent responded that their educational experience was substandard 25% of the time secondary to fatigue. Two thirds responded that the demands of residency training had a negative impact on their family and personal life. Conclusions.—Seventy percent of the otolaryngology—head and neck surgery residents surveyed at six institutions believe that an 80-hour workweek, including being on call every third night with no more than 24 hours of continuous work without sleep, approximates a reasonable, maximum work schedule. Residents working the longest hours expressed concern about rendering substandard care and developing negative attitudes toward patients. Noneducational inefficiencies were identified and solutions were proposed. Demands of residency training, even within guidelines established as reasonable, can have detrimental effects on residents’ educational activities and personal life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1371-1374
Number of pages4
JournalJAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association
Issue number10
StatePublished - Sep 11 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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