Background. In July 2003, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education implemented nationwide requirements on resident duty hours with the aim of improving quality of care. Our objectives were (1) to determine the extent and means of compliance with the ACGME requirements within general surgery residency programs and (2) to examine general surgery residents' perceptions of the effects of the ACGME requirements on patient care and residents' training experience. Methods. A survey was mailed to residents in 19 New England general surgery programs in spring 2004 (n = 238). Results. The overall response rate was 36%. More than 89% of respondents reported that the requirements generally were being enforced, and respondents' mean work hours (80.8 ± 11.7 per week) supported this claim. Forty-three percent felt that quality of care had deteriorated. Although 70% perceived decrements in continuity of care, only 32% believed that the risk of patient management errors had increased. Sixty percent reported doing fewer operations, and half felt that residents missed out on too many learning opportunities. Yet, only 39% reported that the requirements had worsened the quality of training. Residents consistently reported an improved quality of life. Seventy-five percent felt that, overall, the requirements were a good thing. Conclusions. Most surgical residents do not believe that the ACGME duty hour requirements have had their intended effect of improving quality of care and are ambivalent about effects on the quality of their training. However, they report an improved quality of life, and most residents do support the requirements overall.
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