Myths and Realities of the 80-Hour Work Week

Paul J Schenarts, Kimberly D. Anderson Schenarts, Michael F. Rotondo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Background: Myths are so ingrained into cultural traditions that emotion frequently overshadows a rational evaluation of the facts. The reduction in resident work hours has resulted in the formation of several myths. The purpose of this review is to examine the published data on resident work hours to separate out myth from reality. Methods: An electronic database was searched for publications related to resident training, work-hours, continuity of care, sleep deprivation, quality of life, patient safety, clinical/operative experience, faculty work hours, and surgical education. Results: Sleep deprivation has been shown to be harmful, and residents played a role in advocating for work-hour limits. Surgical residents have seen a less dramatic improvement in quality of life compared with other disciplines. Work-hour reductions have decreased participation in clinic but have not resulted in a significant decline in clinical or operative exposure. Limiting resident work hours will unlikely result in a decrease health-care cost. Reduction in resident work hours has not resulted in an improvement or deterioration in patient outcome. Reduction of work hours has not increased faculty work hours nor made surgery a more attractive career choice. Conclusions: Despite strongly held opinions, resident work-hour reduction has resulted in little significant change in lifestyle, clinical exposure, patient well-being, faculty work hours, or medical student recruitment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-274
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • continuity of care
  • medical error
  • residency
  • surgical education
  • work-hour

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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