The Impact of Work Hour Restrictions in Surgery

Surgery is a time demanding job and that is indeed one of the reasons cited by female and male medical students alike of why they are not interested in going into surgery. While many people argue that long work hours are necessary to avoid frequent handoffs of care and loss of information, others point out that long work hours are detrimental for both physical and mental health and can lead to additional errors.

A study speaking to this issue comes from the US, where Matthew Hutter and colleagues investigated the effects of mandated restrictions in the work hours of surgical residents. Notably, we are not talking about restrictions that would make their work hours “normal” by any regular-work-person standards. Their work was restricted to 80 hours a week. But even so, they found effects after the changes were implemented including decreased burnout and increased quality of life. However, participants also voiced concerns about reduced quality of care.

These issues are of course also important for part-time work, which seems to be an option that many women in surgery would like to opt for. So how can the same benefits be achieved while maintaining a high quality of care for patients?

1 thought on “The Impact of Work Hour Restrictions in Surgery

  1. I have to say part time training in surgery is unrealistic! Decreased work hours not only comprise quality of care, but also results in poor surgical training. Exposure to variety and range of clinical scenarios is less, hands on experience in operative skill is less, even if training is prolonged. Dragging training out for more years but less hours per year is not great for building self confidence and morale of the trainee. The other problem with part time training is the fact that many loses out on the opportunity of following up on patients the part-timer has operated on, thus learning opportunities of looking after your own postop patients can be lost. Working part time and training part time in surgery is very different. When one works part time once fully trained, you are still very much looking after your own patients, but you just have less patients to look after. That’s my thoughts on the subject!

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