Background: Our understanding of the effect of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)-mandated work-hour limitation on physicians’ quality of life, sleepiness, and sleep-work habits is evolving. In this study, we sought to determine the effect of work-hour reduction on quality of life in residents and fellows (ICU housestaff) when subject to the ACGME-compliant schedule of one institution. To determine the effect of work-hour reduction on subjective and objective measures of sleepiness in ICU housestaff at a center.
Methods: A single-center study of 34 residents and 10 fellows who were studied before and after the ACGME-mandated work-hour limitation went into effect in July 2003.
Results: In a single center, after the work-hour reduction, residents reported statistically significant but minor improvements in sleep time, subjective sleepiness, and some aspects of quality of life (p < 0.05). Both before and after work-hour limitations, subjective sleepiness and quality-of-life indexes deteriorated during the course of the ICU rotation. Following work-hour reductions, subjective sleepiness improved (p < 0.05), but objective sleepiness was unchanged (p = 0.6). Moreover, after the implementation of work-hour reductions, 59%, 43%, and 25% of the ICU team had mean sleep latency < 10, 7, and 5 min, respectively, with 14% of the team manifesting sleep-onset rapid eye movement periods (signifying severe sleepiness) before beginning their extended work-hour period.
Conclusions: In ICU housestaff, at a single center, small benefits to quality of life and subjective sleepiness were realized by an ACGME-compliant work-hour schedule. Significant levels of objective sleepiness, however, remained. Further measures may need to be undertaken to address the persistence of sleepiness in ICU housestaff. These findings may not be generalized outside of the scheduling system studied.