Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Extended-duration work shifts in surgical specialties.....pdf (351.58 kB)

Extended-duration work shifts in surgical specialties: a systematic review

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-10-20, 09:28 authored by Aoife A Feeley, Charlie Timon, Iain H Feeley, Eoin Sheehan

Introduction: There has been widespread international implementation of duration-hour restrictions to prevent surgical resident burnout and promote patient safety and wellbeing of doctors. A variety of Extended-Duration Work Shifts (EDWS) have been implemented, with a variety of studies examining the effect of shift systems on both surgical performance and the stress response unestablished in the literature.

Methods: This was a systematic review evaluating the impact of extended working hours on surgical performance, cognitive impairment, and physiological stress responses. The review used PubMed, Ovid Medline, Embase, and Google Scholar search engines between September and October 2021 in accordance with Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. Filters including studies carried out after 2002 and published in the English language were applied.

Results: In total, 30 studies were included for analysis. General surgery was the most commonly studied rotation, with Neurosurgical, Orthopedic, and ear, nose and throat specialties also included. The majority of studies found no difference or a significant improvement in post-EDWS on simulated performance. EDWS appeared to have the greatest impact on physiological stress markers in junior surgical trainees.

Conclusions: Experience appears to confer a protective element in the postcall period, with preservation of skill demonstrated. More experienced clinicians yielded lower levels of physiological markers of stress, although variability in hierarchical workload should be considered. Heterogeneity of findings across physiological, cognitive, and psychomotor assessments highlights the need for robust research on the optimum shift pattern prevents worker burnout and promotes patient safety. Future research to evaluate correlation between stress, on-call workload, and performance in the postcall period is warranted.



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Published Citation

Feeley AA, Timon C, Feeley IH, Sheehan E. Extended-duration work shifts in surgical specialties: a systematic review. J Surg Res. 2023;293:525-538.

Publication Date

11 October 2023

PubMed ID



  • School of Medicine




  • Published Version (Version of Record)