Here was my schedule during residency training: Monday: arrive 5 am and leave the hopital when everything that needed to be done was done, usually about 7pm. Since call was every other night, I worked on call until the following morning, sleeping in the hosital on call room (my room mate was a ophthalmology resident who had to get up at 3am to prepare pre-op patients.)
Tuesday: Wash, rinse, repeat. Leave hospital about 7pm to do my laundry. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Wed: Same. On call
Thursday: Same. Off call
Friday: Same On call
Saturday: Conference morning from 7am-noon. Off call
Sunday: Same. On call
You do the math. I was usually too tired to. Then came work hours reform. Now residents can cruise through an 80 hour work week, and, at an average salary of $60K, doing it for minimum wage. Did I mention the median $200k in medical student debt?
A recent analysis of work hour reform and quality of outcomes, at a minimum, showed that the data suggests that the incremental experience gained from working more than 80 hours per week as a resident doctor doesn’t generally translate into improved patient outcomes later. And with rates of physician burnout increasingin recent years, it’s worth considering whether residency work hours could be reduced further, or restructured to address other causes of fatigue (such as electronic health records and insurance issues), without compromising clinical expertise and quality of care for patients downstream. Although there are no serious proposals to rethink residency training hours, it’s an open empirical question worth investigating.
I think we should pay attention to the quality not quantity of the work that gets done when we consider how to train the doctors of the future.
The quality of a graduating resident has more to do with the quality of their training, not its quantity. Yes, case numbers are important, whether it be an internal medicine resident or a ear, nose and throat resident. However, case exposure is frequently random and competencies are variable no matter how many you see or do or how many hours you work. Scut work adds little to learning. Continuous learning is a challenge.
You never get it completely right no matter how many hours you clock doing it. The 10,000 hour rule is a myth. I don't think an extra 6,000 hours will make much difference either (80 hours x 50 weeks x 4 years). That's why it's called practicing the art of medicine.
Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is a professor emeritus of otolaryngology, dentistry, and engineering at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Colorado School of Public Health and President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at www.sopenet.org. He has created several medical device and digital health companies. His primary research centers around biomedical and health innovation and entrepreneurship and life science technology commercialization. He consults for and speaks to companies, governments, colleges and universities around the world who need his expertise and contacts in the areas of bio entrepreneurship, bioscience, healthcare, healthcare IT, medical tourism -- nationally and internationally, new product development, product design, and financing new ventures. He is a former Harvard-Macy fellow and In 2010, he completed a Fulbright at Kings Business, the commercialization office of technology transfer at Kings College in London. He recently published "Building the Case for Biotechnology." "Optical Detection of Cancer", and " The Life Science Innovation Roadmap". He is also an associate editor of the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology and Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship and Editor-in-Chief of Medscape. In addition, He is a faculty member at the University of Colorado Denver Graduate School where he teaches Biomedical Entrepreneurship and is an iCorps participant, trainer and industry mentor. He is the Chief Medical Officer at www.bridgehealth.com and www.cliexa.com and Chairman of the Board at GlobalMindED at www.globalminded.org, a non-profit at risk student success network. He is honored to be named by Modern Healthcare as one of the 50 Most Influential Physician Executives of 2011 and nominated in 2012 and Best Doctors 2013.