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J Surg Educ. 2010 Jan-Feb;67(1):25-31. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2009.12.003.

The eighty-hour workweek: surgical attendings' perspectives.

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Department of Surgery, South East Area Health Education Center, New Hanover Regional Medical Center, Wilmington, North Carolina 28401, USA.



The year 2008 was a sentinel year in resident education; this was the first graduating general surgery class trained entirely under the 80-hour workweek. The purpose of this study was to evaluate attending surgeon perceptions of surgical resident attitudes and performance before and after duty-hour restrictions.


An electronic survey was sent to all surgical teaching institutions in North Carolina. Both surgeon and hospital characteristics were documented. The survey consisted of questions designed to assess residents' attitudes/performance before and after the implementation of the work-hour restriction.


In all, 77 surveys were returned (33% response rate). The survey demonstrated that 92% of educators who responded to the survey recognized a difference between the restricted residents (RRs) and the nonrestricted residents (NRRs), and most respondents (67%) attributed this to both the work-hour restrictions and the work ethic of current residents. Most attending surgeons reported no difference between the RRs and the NRRs in most categories; however, they identified a negative change in the areas of work ethic, technical skills development, decision-making/critical-thinking skills, and patient ownership among the RR group. Most surgeons expressed less trust (55%) with patient care and less confidence (68%) in residents' ability to operate independently in the RR group. Eighty-nine percent indicated that additional decreases in work hours would continue to hamper the mission of timely and comprehensive resident education.


The perception of surgical educators was that RRs are clearly different from the NRRs and that the primary difference is in work ethic and duty-hour restrictions. Although similar in most attributes, RRs are perceived as having a lower baseline work ethic and a less developed technical skill set, decision-making ability, and sense of patient ownership. Subsequent study is needed to evaluate these concerns.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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