A 360 degrees evaluation of a night-float system for general surgery: a response to mandated work-hours reduction

Michael J Goldstein, Eugene Kim, Warren D Widmann, Mark A Hardy
Current Surgery 2004, 61 (5): 445-51

PURPOSE: New York State Code 405 and societal/political pressure have led the RRC and ACGME to mandate strict limitations on resident work hours. In an attempt to meet these limitations, we have switched from the previous Q3 call schedule to a specialized night float (NF) system, the continuity-care system (CCS). The purpose of this CCS is to maximize resident duty time spent on direct patient care, operative experience, and outpatient clinics, while reducing duty hours spent on performing routine tasks and call coverage. The implementation of the CCS is the fundamental step in the restructuring of our residency program. In addition to a change in the call system, we added physician assistants to aid in performing some service tasks. We performed a 360 degrees evaluation of this work in progress.

METHODS: In May 2002, the standard Q3 call system was abolished on the general surgery services at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia campus. Two dedicated teams were created to provide day and night coverage, a day continuity-care team (DCT) and a night continuity-care team (NCT). The DCTs, consisting of PGY1-5 residents, provide daily in-house coverage from 6 AM to 5 PM with no regular weekday night-call responsibilities. The DCT residents provide Friday night, Saturday, and daytime Sunday call coverage 3 to 4 days per month. The NCT, consisting of 5 PGY1-5 residents, provides nightly continuous care, 5 PM to 6 AM, Sunday through Thursday, with no other weekend call responsibilities. This system creates a schedule with less than 80 duty hours per week, on average, with one 24-hour period off a week, one complete weekend off per month, and no more than 24 hours of consecutive duty time. After 1 year of use, the system was evaluated by a 360 degrees method in which residents, residents' spouses, nurses, and faculty were surveyed using a Likert-type scale. Statistical significance was calculated using the Student t-test. Patient satisfaction was measured both by internal review of a patient complaint database as well as by the Press Ganey patient satisfaction surveys.

RESULTS: Twenty-one residents, 10 residents' spouses, 11 general surgery faculty, and 16 nurses were surveyed. Statistically significant findings included reduced resident fatigue noted by all groups (residents, p = 0.01; resident spouses, p = 0.05; faculty, p < 0.0001; nurses, p < 0.0001). Further, residents reported more time for sleep at home (p = 0.0005) and more time for independent reading (p = 0.01). Residents' spouses reported increased availability for family events (p = 0.01). Nurses reported increased availability of residents (p = 0.0002), shorter times to physician identification of patient problems (p = 0.0086), improved resident-nursing communications (p = 0.0096), and increased ease of nursing duties (p < 0.0001). Faculty were the only responders who felt that continuity of patient care suffered with the new system (p = 0.02). The Press Ganey review showed improvement in the quality of care rendered as perceived by patients.

CONCLUSIONS: The institution of a specialized NF or CCS for in-house coverage of general surgical services in a large metropolitan university hospital has had initial success in meeting the mandated changes in resident work hours. The CCS reduced resident fatigue, improved quality of resident life, and improved patient care as judged by patients and nurse.

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