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Study Sheds Light on the Health and Safety of the Resident Physician Workforce

Changes in workplace policy can significantly impact the health and safety of employees – an observation that is timely and relevant to the health care workforce, particularly resident physicians. A new study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine by researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine highlights the awareness and impact of newly released work-hour restrictions on the resident physician workforce.

From left, Alberto Caban-Martinez, D.O., Ph.D., M.P.H., Michelle Shnayder and Joan E. St. Onge, M.D.

The study, titled “Medical On-call Room Evaluation” (MORE), revealed that while most resident physicians agreed with the U.S. Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s stricter work-hour restrictions and strategy for napping at work, a large proportion of resident physicians in the study did not perceive a supportive work environment in the hospital for napping.

“The medical field has made strides in improving the health and well-being of resident physicians, but our research demonstrates the need for continued progress,” said study author Michelle Shnayder, a rising fourth-year M.D./M.P.H. student at the Miller School of Medicine.

While the study did not assess why resident physicians felt they could not nap while at work, the research team found that excess workload, a loud on-call room environment, concerns about continuity of care, and fear of judgment from colleagues and attending physicians were justifications for why residents did not engage in napping.

“It is very important to educate our residents about fatigue and fatigue mitigation strategies, especially as the ACGME loosens restrictions on longer work periods for physicians in training. Strategic napping is an important tool in managing fatigue, and we should do more to encourage its use,” said study co-author Joan E. St. Onge, M.D., Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education and associate professor of clinical medicine.

Documenting the impact of worker- and organizational-level workplace policies on employee health and safety is important to not only protect and promote worker health, but also to support the productivity and vitality of the company.

“In this study we aspire to inform public policy so that significant scientific findings on workplace policy can be translated into practices that will effectively reduce work-related illness and occupational injuries in the young physician workforce,” said senior study author Alberto J. Caban-Martinez, D.O., Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of public health sciences.

For better resident physician wellness, researchers advise that napping should remain part of the ACGME initiative toward improved patient safety. Basic needs such as adequate nutrition, sleep, access to medical care, and social support are necessary for resident physicians to maintain their health and well-being.

“We hope to continue the work started by the MORE study by collecting longitudinal data on the impact of workplace policy on resident physician health and safety,” Shnayder said.


Tags: American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Dr. Alberto Caban-Martinez, Dr. Joan St. Onge, resident physicians, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine