Evidence regarding nighttime physician staffing of ICUs is suboptimal. We aimed to determine how nighttime physician staffing models influence patient outcomes.
We performed a multicenter retrospective cohort study in a multicenter registry of US ICUs. The exposure variable was the ICU’s nighttime physician staffing model. The primary outcome was hospital mortality. Secondary outcomes included new limitations on life support, ICU length of stay, hospital length of stay, and duration of mechanical ventilation. Daytime physician staffing was studied as a potential effect modifier.
The study included 270,742 patients in 143 ICUs. Compared with nighttime staffing with an attending intensivist, nighttime staffing without an attending intensivist was not associated with hospital mortality (OR, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.92-1.15; P = .65). This relationship was not modified by daytime physician staffing (interaction P = .19). When nighttime staffing was subcategorized, neither attending nonintensivist nor physician trainee staffing was associated with hospital mortality compared with attending intensivist staffing. However, nighttime staffing without any physician was associated with reduced odds of hospital mortality (OR, 0.79; 95% CI, 0.68-0.91; P = .002) and new limitations on life support (OR, 0.83; 95% CI, 0.75-0.93; P = .001). Nighttime staffing was not associated with ICU or hospital length of stay. Nighttime staffing with an attending nonintensivist was associated with a slightly longer duration of mechanical ventilation (hazard ratio, 1.05; 95% CI, 1.02-1.09; P < .001).
We found little evidence that nighttime physician staffing models affect patient outcomes. ICUs without physicians at night may exhibit reduced hospital mortality that is possibly attributable to differences in end-of-life care practices.