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Acad Med. 2004 May;79(5):379-80.

Resident work hours: the five stages of grief.

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  • 1Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York,USA.


The authors describe their reactions, as surgical educators, to the mandate of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education to reduce resident work hours. They explain these reactions in terms of Dr. Elizabeth K├╝bler-Ross's five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance ("which should not be mistaken for a happy stage"). The authors describe each stage of grief and use it to make specific comments on the difficulties that the mandate imposes. They then reveal that their views about the work-hours regulations differ: Dr. Ivy now sees them as an opportunity to grow and improve, and likens the resistance to the new restrictions to that of Europeans to the printing press. But Dr. Barone ("the older of the coauthors and a known curmudgeon") is not so sure, and shares many of the concerns described earlier in the five stages of grief, even though he has outwardly accepted the work-hours rules and insists on full compliance by his residents and faculty. In particular, he is saddened that some residents feel they have the absolute right to go home regardless of the situation on the surgery service, and this feeling is validated by the work-hours rules.

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