“When I Was a Resident”: How Duty Hour Rules Are Creating a Lost Generation of Physicians.


This article was written by a Pulmonary, Critical Care Fellow who completed residency after recent resident duty hour restrictions went into effect.

During my internal medicine residency, we were allowed to work  a maximum of 30 hours per shift.  You would do a 24 hour call in the hospital , then round on your patients post-call and go home by noon.  This was the norm.  I completed 5-6 of these shifts per month during my entire 3 years of residency.  Even then, when timidly telling my attending physicians that it was time for me to go home after fulfilling my 30 hours of duty and barely being able to keep my eyes open, they would respond with the old clichéd phrase “Well, when I was a resident……”  The sentence would usually end with something about how they used to work for 3 days straight with no sleep, no shower, and on and on.  Just like your Dad telling you “When I was a kid, I would walk to school, barefoot, in 6 feet of snow…..uphill.” At least that’s what my Dad would say, and I would sigh and roll my eyes.    I never thought I would agree with such a cliché.  But now, as a 2nd year Pulmonary and Critical Care fellow, I frequently find myself repeating these same exact words:  “When I was a resident..” and let’s face it, that was only 2 years ago.

 I completed my residency  prior to the “new” duty hour limitations that went into effect in 2011.  The new regulations limit residents from working more than 16 hours straight; after 16 hours, they must have a mandatory “nap” time.   This has forced many institutions to change the call schedule to so-called “block nights”.  Residents are only allowed to work 12 hours during a call shift.  They work 12 hours and may stay for an additional 1-2 hours after for educational lectures and sign-out, but otherwise, they are off duty.  I have even found that many resident physicians will not even return a page after 7 am because apparently that would be a violation of duty hours.

 Shortening duty hours to a maximum of 16 hours at a time has not, in my opinion, improved resident physicians experience in any surmountable way.  It seems detrimental if anything.  Studies including the one recently published in JAMA, would seem to support the view that shortened hours may not in fact be beneficial to residents or their patients.

Because of the changes in work hours, residents are becoming less educated, less experienced, and more apt to push work off onto someone else or to leave it altogether.  They have a decreasing sense of patient responsibility and motivation.   I frequently hear, “Oh, I have to leave, can’t go over my duty hours,” even when there is still patient care to be done.  I’m not asking that residents be asked to stay beyond what’s reasonable (and I know “reasonable” is still the big debate), but I do think these increased restrictions on allotted time in the hospital are molding a generation of residents who are less than motivated. Many are being  instilling with bad habits and a poor work ethic.

Now, I know, maybe I am just one of those people. The overachiever who expects a lot from myself, and from others.  I am, after all, a pulmonary/critical care fellow, so I do have that type of personality.  But I know the majority of my colleagues agree with me:  the general consensus is that these duty hour restrictions are instilling a lackadaisical apathy in many of the underclassman.  Not all, but many.  We are teaching them that it’s OK to do the minimum, and that there’s not a need to go above and beyond.  It’s OK that you weren’t able to put that arterial line in because you put in your 12 hours, and I know you were busy.

In my opinion, this is not acceptable. Continue reading ““When I Was a Resident”: How Duty Hour Rules Are Creating a Lost Generation of Physicians.”

5 Things No One Taught Me in Residency

Below is a Repost of a previous article, that is appropriate to this time of year.

Since medical school, I’ve gone through an additional 6 years of training, read countless volumes of medical literature, and had the fortune of having some great teachers. Through it all, experience has been the greatest teacher, which I suppose is what training is about. I’ve watched with interest as advice has been hashed out on the web around this time of year to new trainees on all matter of subjects. And much of it is good and useful, to be sure.
Being the helpful person that I am, I naturally want to do my part. What, I thought, could I contribute to this discussion that hasn’t been said already?
To that end I’ve come up with my own list of of trivial and only slightly helpful tidbits of information, based on my own experiences over the last 11 years post graduation. Here I give you my top 5 list of things that no one ever told me in medical training. . .but should have. Enjoy.

1. Before conducting a family meeting, go the restroom. Scan your face for things that might appear distracting or unseemly,  like nasal boogies or lettuce stuck in your teeth, and quickly remove them. If you are one of the few convertible drivers with hair, pay special attention to this area; the “mad scientist” look is generally not one which inspires confidence in these situations.

2. Using hospital Jello-O and graham crackers as the base of your food pyramid makes for a reasonably strong pyramid.  At least as  strong as any other pyramid that has a soft mushy substance at its base.

3. Sometimes an appropriately discharged patient will refuse to leave the hospital. Follow your hospital’s policy in these situations. If it is your hospital’s policy to call security, then do so. However it would be wise to have your patient fill out the house officer rating/feedback form before doing so.

4. If your attending physician gives you an answer that seems wishy-washy, it’s because they don’t know the answer. They still know a heck of a lot more than you, though.

5. When entering a room to declare death on a patient, whose family is in the room, make sure your pager is on vibrate. Particularly remember to silence any cutesy ring tones (such as Cee Lo Green or the Benny Hill theme) that might bring unwanted awkwardness to an otherwise somber moment.

Thank you and Good Luck!

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