Medical Residents' Duty Time Should Incorporate Recovery Time, Study Says

It goes back to the age-old difficult decision: school, sleep, and social life – now pick two. Although most of us are juggling busy lives, medical residents have the heavy weight of their own problems as well as their patients’.

It goes back to the age-old difficult decision: school, sleep, and social life — now pick two. Although most of us are juggling busy lives, medical residents have the heavy weight of their own problems as well as their patients’.

In a study published in Academic Medicine, researchers aimed to identify and track residents’ activities once they left the hospital. They took it a step further to see how that ties into their decision-making processes.

“Despite assumptions about how residents should be using their postcall, off-duty time, there is little research on how residents actually use this time and the reasoning underpinning their activities,” the authors began.

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To uncover this information, 24 postgraduate year one to five residents from half a dozen different specialties were recruited from a Canadian medical school.

“Residents characterized their predominant approach to postcall decision making as one of making trade-offs between multiple, competing, seemingly incompatible, but equally valuable, activities,” the authors detailed.

The interviews revealed that the residents had one of two trade-off mindsets — either concentrated on having a normal life or fighting off fatigue. This means that residents are motivated by either the recovery of self or of sleep.

Based on these findings, the team suggests that duty hours should be expanded to include time to focus on the dual recovery process.

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