Purpose A monumental change in medical resident training occurred in July 2003 when the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education implemented new guidelines restricting resident work hours. One of the factors involved in this decision was the perceived negative effect working long hours had on a resident's quality of life (QOL). The purpose of this study was to determine if work hour restrictions improved our residents' quality of life.
Methods A voluntary survey was given to internal medicine residents in the academic years of 1995-1996 and 2005-2006. Residents were asked to rate their own quality of life as well as that of the average medical resident and the average person now, the previous year, and the year to come on a 9-point Likert scale (1 being the best and 9 the worst.) A final question had residents select from several qualitative descriptions about their own quality of life. Answers from 1995 and 2005 were analyzed using means, standard errors, and a t-test.
Results In 1995, 57 residents responded to this survey, giving a response rate of 71%; in 2005, 52 residents responded, giving a response rate of 67%. Our results showed no substantial difference in quality of life between our residents in 1995 and 2005 (1995 to 2005: current year 6.4 vs 6.2, previous year 6.0 vs 6.1, next year 7.3 vs 7.0). The results also showed that our 2005 residents perceived their QOL as better than the average medical resident (6.2 to 5.6) and rated average medical residents as worse than the average person (5.6 to 6.3). Other comparison groups showed that our residents' QOL was better than a chronic pain patient, worse than a first-year medical student, and much better than a second-year medical student (6.2 to 4.8). Of interest, all groups thought that their QOL was not essentially different from the previous year (1995: 6.4 to 6.0, 2005: 6.2 to 6.1) but would be significantly better the next year (1995: 6.4 to 7.3, 2005: 6.2 to 7.0).
Conclusions This study does not indicate a significant difference in our residents' self-reported quality of life before and after the implementation of work hour restrictions. However, residents continue to feel optimistic regarding their future quality of life.
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