Today’s residents have more to read but less time to learn

As everyone knows, residents are now restricted to working 80 hours per week. One of the lesser known side effects of this work hours limitation is the drastic loss of educational conference time.

Since at least one third of the residents must now go home after morning rounds, afternoon conferences are no longer possible. Most residency programs now devote part of at least one morning per week to dedicated educational time.

JAMA Surgery recently described how one program chose to comply with the mandate to teach some of the more fuzzy resident core competencies. Their weekly didactic schedule of one hour of grand rounds and one hour of small group learning now includes 10 hours per year (representing 10% of the 100 hours allotted to formal teaching) on practice-based learning and improvement, interpersonal and communication skills, systems-based practice, and professionalism.

The specific topics are structure and policy of U.S. health care, advocacy, medical economics and finance, history and consequences of major legislation, innovation in health care, health information technology, comparative effectiveness, health care disparities, basic management principles, quality, performance improvement, patient safety, coding and billing compliance, legal issues, litigation, risk management, clinical practice models, contracts, relative value units (RVUs), personal leadership styles, power and influence: organization psychology, negotiation and conflict resolution, communication, ethics, and last but certainly not least, one of my favorites – Six Sigma.

I don’t mean to disparage the authors of this paper. They’re only trying to follow the rules. I’m just glad I’m no longer a residency program director having to commit 10% of my program’s precious educational time to things like organization psychology, history and consequences of major legislation, and Six freakin’ Sigma.

But I guess it could be worse. At this year’s meeting of the Association of Program Directors in Internal Medicine, the following slide suggesting books that should be read by every chief resident was shown.

Todays residents have more to read but less time to learn

I would love to meet the chief resident who had not only the time, but also the inclination to read all 17 of these books.

“Skeptical Scalpel” is a surgeon blogs at his self-titled site, Skeptical Scalpel.

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