Building physician work hour regulations from first principles and best evidence.
The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education's 2003 regulations limiting housestaff duty hours have generated an expansive field of research into their impact on fatigue, workload, clinical outcomes, and patient safety. This commentary aims to put the current research into a practical context and provides eight priorities that should guide teaching institutions in their efforts to balance both physician and patient safety. The authors highlight alternative staffing models (e.g., no more 24-hour shifts), improved sign-out procedures, greater monitoring and evaluation of duty hour changes, the importance of adequate supervision and workload intensity, and better designed financial incentives to promote successful policy change. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has sponsored an Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee to review the important research and related issues around work hour restrictions.