Changes in resident duty hours in Europe and North America have had a major impact on the internal organizational dynamics of health care organizations. This paper examines, and assesses the impact of, organizational interventions that were a direct response to these duty hour reforms.
The academic literature was searched through the SCOPUS database using the search terms “resident duty hours” and “European Working Time Directive,” together with terms related to organizational factors. The search was limited to English-language literature published between January 2003 and January 2012. Studies were included if they reported an organizational intervention and measured an organizational outcome.
Twenty-five articles were included from the United States (n = 18), the United Kingdom (n = 5), Hong Kong (n = 1), and Australia (n = 1). They all described single-site projects; the majority used post-intervention surveys (n = 15) and audit techniques (n = 4). The studies assessed organizational measures, including relationships among staff, work satisfaction, continuity of care, workflow, compliance, workload, and cost. Interventions included using new technologies to improve handovers and communications, changing staff mixes, and introducing new shift structures, all of which had varying effects on the organizational measures listed previously.
Little research has assessed the organizational impact of duty hour reforms; however, the literature reviewed demonstrates that many organizations are using new technologies, new personnel, and revised and innovative shift structures to compensate for reduced resident coverage and to decrease the risk of limited continuity of care. Future research in this area should focus on both micro (e.g., use of technology, shift changes, staff mix) and macro (e.g., culture, leadership support) organizational aspects to aid in our understanding of how best to respond to these duty hour reforms.