Emergency medicine residents' shiftwork tolerance and preference

Mark T. Steele, O. John Ma, William A. Watson, Harold A. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Objectives: To determine the shift lengths currently worked by emergency medicine (EM) residents and their shift length preferences, and to determine factors associated with EM residents' subjective tolerance of shiftwork. Methods: A survey was sent to EM-2 through EM-4 allopathic EM residents in May 1996. This questionnaire assessed the residents' shift length worked, shift length preferences, night shift schedules, and self-reported ability to overcome drowsiness, sleep flexibility, and morningness-eveningness tendencies. When providing shift length preferences, the residents were asked to assume a constant total number of hours scheduled per month. Results: Seventy-eight programs participated, and 62% of 1,554 eligible residents returned usable surveys. Current shift lengths worked were 8 hours (12%), 10 hours (13%), 12 hours (37%), combinations of 8-hour, 10-hour, or 12-hour (34%) shifts, and other combinations (4%). Seventy-three percent of the respondents indicated that they preferred to work 8-hour or 10-hour shifts, and only 21% preferred a 12-hour shift. Shiftwork tolerance was recorded as: not well at all (2%), not very well (14%), fairly well (70%), and very well (14%). The EM residents' eveningness preference, ability to overcome drowsiness, sleep flexibility, younger age, and having no children at home were all associated with greater shiftwork tolerance. Conclusions: Emergency medicine residents generally tolerate shiftwork well and prefer 8-hour or 10- hour shift lengths compared with 12-hour shift lengths. Emergency medicine residencies with 12-hour shifts should consider changing residents' shifts to shorter shifts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)670-673
Number of pages4
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2000


  • Circadian rhythms
  • Morningness-eveningness
  • Postgraduate medical education
  • Residents
  • Shiftwork
  • Work schedule tolerance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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