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J Neurosurg. 2009 May;110(5):828-36. doi: 10.3171/2009.2.JNS081583.

Resident duty hour regulation and patient safety: establishing a balance between concerns about resident fatigue and adequate training in neurosurgery.

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


Postgraduate training in medicine has been under scrutiny over the past 10 years with a major focus on physician personal health and patient safety. The culmination of a series of events led to the 80-hour work week instituted by the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education in 2003. The effect this mandate has had on surgical education, and specifically training in neurological surgery, has been incompletely evaluated. Nevertheless, external pressure has prompted the Institute of Medicine to issue a new report on resident work hours and patient safety. In this report, the authors focus on the unique aspects of neurosurgical training in which physicians are trained to safely and effectively carry out complex high-risk tasks, the experience from abroad where work hours are reduced to well below 80 hours/week, and the risk that further reduction in work hours poses to the public. The authors conclude that there must be an adequate balance between the risks associated with resident fatigue and those associated with an inexperienced neurosurgical work force for public health.

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