BACKGROUND: New Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) requirements on resident duty hours are scheduled to undergo nationwide implementation in July 2003. General surgery residents, because of their long duty hours, are likely to be among those most affected by changes imposed to comply with the ACGME requirements. There are few contemporary data on their attitudes toward work hours reform. STUDY DESIGN: The study entailed a region-wide survey of residents enrolled in general surgery residencies in New England to characterize the perceptions and desires of surgical residents on the issue of work hours reform. RESULTS: Respondents reported working a mean of 105 ± 0.7 hours per week, considerably more than the 80-hour limit stipulated by the ACGME. Of the respondents, 81% reported that sleep deprivation had negatively affected their work. A strong majority of respondents believe that work hours reform would improve their quality of life but less than one half expect it to have a positive impact on patient care. A greater percentage of senior residents than junior residents (p < 0.05) have negative perceptions of work hour limitations, particularly with respect to consequences for patient care. Other findings suggest that residents who have actually experienced work hour restrictions are less positive about such restrictions than these residents who had not yet experienced them. CONCLUSIONS: Changes imposed by residency programs to comply with work hour requirements might have detrimental effects on senior residents and patient care. The impact of such changes should be carefully monitored as the ACGME requirements are implemented.
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