HealthDay News — A rapidly cycling work roster (RCWR) is effective in reducing weekly work hours and the occurrence of >16 consecutive-hour shifts as well as improving sleep duration of resident physicians, according to a study published online May 20 in SLEEP.

Laura K. Barger, Ph.D., from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and colleagues randomly assigned 302 senior resident physicians (postgraduate year 2 and higher) to an extended-duration work roster (EDWR) with extended-duration (≥24 hours) shifts or RCWR, in which scheduled shift lengths were limited to ≤16 consecutive hours. Residents completed 370 one-month pediatric intensive care unit rotations in six U.S. academic medical centers. Sleep was measured using wrist-worn actigraphs.

The researchers found that resident physicians worked fewer total hours per week during the RCWR versus EDWR (61.9 versus 68.4). Seventy-three percent of work hours occurred within shifts of ≤16 consecutive hours during RCWR; whereas during the EDWR, 38 percent of work hours occurred on shifts of ≤16 consecutive hours. On RCWR, resident physicians slept significantly more per week versus during EDWR (52.9 versus 49.1 hours). For RCWR, the percentage of 24-hour intervals less than four hours of actigraphically measured sleep was 9 percent compared with 25 percent during the EDWR.

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“Although inclusion of the six operational health care sites increases the generalizability of these findings, there was heterogeneity in schedule implementation,” the authors write.

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