Restrictions on surgical resident shift length does not impact type of medical errors

Jamie Anderson, Laura F. Goodman, Guy W. Jensen, Edgardo Salcedo, Joseph M Galante

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background In 2011, resident duty hours were restricted in an attempt to improve patient safety and resident education. With the goal of reducing fatigue, shorter shift length leads to more patient handoffs, raising concerns about adverse effects on patient safety. This study seeks to determine whether differences in duty-hour restrictions influence types of errors made by residents. Materials and methods This is a nested retrospective cohort study at a surgery department in an academic medical center. During 2013-14, standard 2011 duty hours were in place for residents. In 2014-15, duty-hour restrictions at the study site were relaxed (“flexible”) with no restrictions on shift length. We reviewed all morbidity and mortality submissions from July 1, 2013-June 30, 2015 and compared differences in types of errors between these periods. Results A total of 383 patients experienced adverse events, including 59 deaths (15.4%). Comparing standard versus flexible periods, there was no difference in mortality (15.7% versus 12.6%, P = 0.479) or complication rates (2.6% versus 2.5%, P = 0.696). There was no difference in types of errors between periods (P = 0.050-0.808). The most number of errors were due to cognitive failures (229, 59.6%), whereas the fewest number of errors were due to team failure (127, 33.2%). By subset, technical errors resulted in the highest number of errors (169, 44.1%). There were no differences between types of errors of cases that were nonelective, at night, or involving residents. Conclusions Among adverse events reported in this departmental surgical morbidity and mortality, there were no differences in types of errors when resident duty hours were less restrictive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-14
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - May 15 2017


  • Adverse events
  • Complications
  • Morbidity and mortality
  • Resident duty hours
  • Surgical outcomes
  • Work hours

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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