Dr. Rodney said any changes that add plasticity to the rules for residents are good changes. “Inflexibility is a bad thing in medicine, because this is not a 9-to-5 job,” she added.
Dr. Vasan added that ACGME has a challenging task to ensure that residents are learning safely. But being equal to their senior peers is a major boon to first-year residents under the revised rules.
“Interns for otolaryngology are now within our specialty for six months out of 12 months,” he said. “Previously, they may have rotated through, say, one rotation of ear, nose, and throat, and the rest of the year would have been general surgery, and so on … If they’re going to be involved in patient care, they should be, in my opinion, working under the same work-hour limits, restrictions, or maximums as their contemporaries.”
That said, as a residency program director, he appreciates ACGME’s review of the available evidence every few years to tweak work hours, ensuring the best outcomes for patients and physicians. “There’s a very fine balance,” Dr. Vasan added, “between getting residents maximum experience within, say, a four to five-year block versus having a period of mental and physical rest that’s adequate throughout their training.”
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.