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J Am Coll Surg. 2017 Feb;224(2):149-159. doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2016.10.041. Epub 2016 Nov 21.

Exploring Qualitative Perspectives on Surgical Resident Training, Well-Being, and Patient Care.

Author information

  • 1Surgical Outcomes and Quality Improvement Center, Department of Surgery, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL.
  • 2Surgical Outcomes and Quality Improvement Center, Department of Surgery, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL; American College of Surgeons, Chicago, IL; Department of Surgery, Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, IL.
  • 3Surgical Outcomes and Quality Improvement Center, Department of Surgery, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL; Center for Healthcare Studies in the Institute for Public Health and Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL; American College of Surgeons, Chicago, IL.
  • 4Surgical Outcomes and Quality Improvement Center, Department of Surgery, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL; Center for Healthcare Studies in the Institute for Public Health and Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL. Electronic address: Julie.k.johnson@northwestern.edu.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The Flexibility in Duty Hour Requirements for Surgical Trainees (FIRST) trial found no difference in patient outcomes or resident well-being between more restrictive and flexible duty hour policies. Qualitative methods are appropriate for better understanding the experience and perceptions of those affected by duty hour regulations. We conducted a pilot qualitative study on how resident duty hour regulations are perceived by general surgery program directors, surgical residents, and attending surgeons who participated in the FIRST Trial.

STUDY DESIGN:

Semi-structured qualitative interviews were pilot tested with program directors, residents, and attendings to examine initial perceptions of the standard and flexible policies implemented during the trial. The transcribed interviews were analyzed thematically using a constant comparative approach and grouped first by study arm and then by level (patient, surgeon, program, and national).

RESULTS:

More restrictive duty hours were perceived as creating a tension between resident personal and professional well-being. Standard Policy resulted in more transitions, which was perceived as creating vulnerable gaps in patient care. Standard Policy restrictions were seen as particularly challenging for interns and often led to inadequate preparation for promotion and encouraged a shift mentality.

CONCLUSIONS:

In our pilot study, interviewees valued the flexibility afforded in the Flexible Policy arm, as it allowed them to maximize patient safety and educational attainment. Additional qualitative research will expand on program director, resident, and attending perceptions of resident duty hours as well as perceptions of patient safety. Qualitative methods can contribute to the national debate on resident duty hours.

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