Perceptions of Fatigue and Safety Climate Pertaining to Residency Duty-Hour Restrictions

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Introduction: The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), which sets the standards for residency training, instituted work-hour restrictions in 2003. Our purpose was to assess residents’ perceptions of fatigue and local safety climate specific to these duty-hour restrictions.

Methods: All residents (N=433) at one university were emailed a link to a survey in 2019. The survey included demographic details, on-call descriptors, an 18-point climate survey (CS), and the 33-point Chalder Fatigue Questionnaire (CFQ). The CS was adapted from a commonly used safety climate scale and intended to measure the respondent’s perceptions of their program’s attitudes and practices around resident duty-hour compliance. A Pearson correlational analysis was used to determine if there were associations between the variables.

Results: Mean CS score was 12.89 (95% confidence interval, CI 12.32-13.46, N=164, 48.5%). Respondents were most likely to disagree with “Residents are told when they are at risk of working beyond ACGME duty-hour restrictions,” where 57 (34.7%) disagreed or strongly disagreed. Mean CFQ score was 16.02 (95% CI 14.87-17.17, N=113, 26.1%). As the CS score improved, CFQ scores decreased indicating an inverse relationship between duty-hour climate and fatigue (r=-0.328, p<0.05). Having a protected post-call day off, and having either the Program Director, Chief Resident, or Senior Resident decide that a resident takes a post-call day off were all associated with higher CS scores.

Conclusion: We found that the CS had good internal consistency and evidence of construct validity. An inverse relationship between CS score and fatigue suggests that the level of fatigue is higher among residents in programs where residents perceived that ACGME duty-hour compliance was less important.


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