Health systems around the world are struggling with how to best meet the health needs of their populations. Health leaders speak with urgency about the need to improve the individual experience of care, improve the health of populations, and maximize return on investments. Physicians concur - they are continually focused on providing better care to their patients.
Concurrently, concerns over patient safety have arisen over the last two decades, rooted in studies of adverse events. The incidence of adverse events (AEs) in acute care hospitals has been reported in the United States (US),1,2,3 Australia,4 United Kingdom,5 and Canada.6 Between 5% and 20% of patients admitted to hospital experience one or more AEs; between 36.9% - 51% of these AEs are preventable; and AEs contribute billions of dollars through additional hospital stays as well as other costs to the system, patients and the broader society.7 Leape et al. maintain that more than two-thirds of AEs are preventable.8 These outcomes have prompted decision makers, policy makers and healthcare providers to examine contributing factors, including the increasingly complex health system and its impact on the well-being of providers.
Patient safety and physician well-being are the key drivers leading to restrictions on resident and/or physician duty hours aimed at reducing their fatigue. The European Working Time Directive (EWTD) was first established in 1993 to place limits on all workers' hours throughout Europe under the umbrella of health and safety legislation. That directive included physicians but excluded doctors in training. In 2000, a new directive passed to include the "junior doctor" constituency accompanied by a requirement that by 2009 all health systems in the European Union limit resident work to a maximum of 48 hours averaged per week. The intention was to improve the working lives of doctors in training and to increase patient safety. A systematic review on the impact of the EWTD on postgraduate medical training, patient safety, or clinical outcomes found studies to be of poor quality with conflicting results.9
In 2003, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) in the US adopted a set of duty hour regulations for physicians in training. The ACGME issued revised regulations that went into effect in July 2011, reflecting the recommendations of a 2008 Institute of Medicine report Resident Duty Hours: Enhancing Sleep, Supervision, and Safety, calling for elimination of extended duty shifts (more than 16 hours) for first year residents, increasing days off, improving sleep hygiene by reducing night duty and providing more scheduled sleep breaks, and increasing oversight by more senior physicians.10 The Institute of Medicine's report bases its recommendations on the growing body of research linking clinician fatigue and error.
In 2013, the National Steering Committee on Resident Duty Hours released Canada's first comprehensive, collaborative and evidence-based report on fatigue and duty hours for Canada's approximately 12,000 residents. The Committee stresses that a comprehensive approach is necessary in order to enhance safety and wellness outcomes. Fatigue risk management is a predominant theme in the recommendations.
Fatigue management systems are in place in other sectors/industries that have a low threshold for adverse outcomes including aviation, transportation, and the Department of National Defence. In 2010, the Canadian Nurses Association released a position statement Taking Action on Nurse Fatigue that speaks to system, organizational and individual level responsibilities of registered nurses.
There are currently no specific policies in Canada for physicians in practice with respect to fatigue management. Given the heterogeneity of medical practice (i.e. various specialties) and of the practice settings (i.e. rural and remote versus urban, clinic versus hospital, etc.), the solutions emanating from a fatigue management policy may be different - one size will not fit all.
Impact of Physician Fatigue
Sleep deprivation is the condition of not having enough sleep and can be either chronic or acute. It impairs cognitive and behavioural performance. "Sleep is required for the consolidation of learning and for the optimal performance of cognitive tasks. Studies of sleep deprivation have shown that one night without sleep negatively affects the performance of specific higher cognitive functions of the prefrontal cortex and can cause impairment in attention, memory, judgment, and problem solving."(p. 1841)11 A seminal study by Williamson and Feyer found that after 17-19 hours without sleep, performance on some cognitive and motor performance tests was equivalent or worse than that at a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05%.12 Wakefulness for 24 hours is equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.10%.13
A chronic sleep-restricted state can cause fatigue, which is a subjective feeling of tiredness, lack of energy and motivation. A large body of research exists linking sleep deprivation/fatigue, performance and adverse patient outcomes, particularly for medical residents. 14,15,16,17,18,19, 20, 21,22, 23,24 However, literature on the impact on performance varies based on a number of factors. There are significant inter-individual differences in the global response to sleep loss, as well as significant intra-individual variations in the degree to which different domains of neurobehavioral function (e.g., vigilance, subjective sleepiness, and cognitive performance) are affected. Inter-individual differences are not merely a consequence of variations in sleep history. Rather, they involve trait-like differential vulnerability to impairment from sleep loss. 25
Evidence suggests an inconclusive relationship between duty hour reductions (primarily those implemented in the US) and patient safety, suggesting that restrictions on consecutive duty hours have not had the anticipated impact on this crucial outcome as anticipated.26 Several large studies have revealed only neutral or slightly improved patient mortality and other clinical parameters since implementation of the ACGME work hour limits in the US.27,28, 29,30 In complex and ever changing health systems, it is difficult to isolate the impact of restricted duty hours alone.
Research on the effects of practicing physician sleep deprivation and extended work shifts on clinical outcomes is limited and inconclusive.31, 32
The issue of physician fatigue is complex, and is affected by much more than duty hours. Other contributing factors affect performance including work patterns, individual response to sleep loss, experience of the worker, the context of which sleep deprivation is necessary, hours of actual sleep, patient volume, patient turnover and patient acuity, environmental factors, personal stressors, workload, etc. Limiting work hours alone is not sufficient to address sleep deprivation among physicians. Reduced or disturbed periods of sleep, more consecutive days or nights of work, shift variability, and the volume of work all increase fatigue and thus can contribute to errors.
One of the biggest concerns with a fatigue management strategy is continuity of care, linked to the number of transfers of care (handover) among providers. Transfers of care inevitably increase in an environment of work hour limitations.33, 34 Handovers are considered critical moments in the continuity of patient care and have been identified as a significant source of hospital errors, often related to poor communication. There is a growing body of literature on how to do these well and how to teach this well. This is an important skill for physicians in the context of a fatigue management strategy: "Standardization of the handover process has been linked to a reduction in the number of errors related to information transfers. In addition, effective mechanisms for the transfer of information at transition points have been recognized as patient safety enablers."35
Provider well-being (physical, mental, occupational) is linked to system performance and patient outcomes. It is affected by fatigue and work patterns including night shift and extended hours. Comprehensive, systematic reviews of the health effects of on-call work in 2004 showed that nighttime work interrupted sleep patterns, aggravated underlying medical conditions, and increased the risk of cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and reproductive dysfunction.36,37.38 Other research suggests an elevated risk of breast cancer,39,40 prostate cancer,41 colorectal cancer,42 asthma43, diabetes,44 and epilepsy45 for shift workers. Disruption of the body's circadian rhythms is thought to be one of the main pathways for adverse health effects from shift work, particularly for work schedules that involve night work.
Given that 24-hour work is unavoidable in various industries, including healthcare, researchers have evaluated different shift schedules designed to reduce some of the negative health effects of working at night. Optimal shift schedules are aligned as much as possible with the circadian rhythm, promote adaptation of the circadian rhythm with shift work, reflect workers' needs and preferences, and meet organizational or productivity requirements. The following interventions appear to have the most beneficial effects on the health of shift workers:46
* Schedule changes including changing from backward (counterclockwise) to forward (clockwise) rotation, from eight hour to 12 hour shifts, and flexible working conditions, self-scheduling, and ergonomic shift scheduling principles
* Controlled exposure to light and day;
* Behavioural approaches such as physical activity, scheduled naps and education about sleep strategies; and
* Use of pharmacotherapy (i.e. caffeine and melatonin) to promote sleep, wakefulness, or adaptation
Sleep deprivation and on-call shifts consistently point to deterioration of mood resulting in depression, anger, anxiety, hostility, and decreased vigilance.47 ,48, 49 A Canadian study found that shift workers reported significantly higher burnout, emotional exhaustion, job stress and psychosomatic health problems (e.g. headaches, upset stomach, difficulty falling asleep) than workers on a regular day schedule.50 Prolonged duty hours by residents has been found to contribute to marital problems, pregnancy complications, depression, suicide and substance abuse,51 as well as serious conflicts with attending physicians, other residents, and nurses, in addition to increased alcohol use and instances of unethical behaviour.52 Surprisingly however, the abolishment of 24-hour continuous medical call duty for general surgery residents at one facility in Quebec was associated with self-reported poorer quality of life.53
In contrast to other recommendations on the health benefits of 8 hr shifts, the risk of a work safety incident increases markedly after more than eight hours on duty. The risk in the twelfth hour is almost double than in the eighth hour (and more than double the average risk over the first eight hours on duty).54 Extended work duration and nighttime work by interns is associated with an increased risk of reported percutaneous injuries (PIs).55 Fatigue was reported more often as a contributing factor for nighttime compared with daytime injuries. Fatigue was also more commonly reported as a contributing factor to PIs that occurred after extended work than those that occurred after non-extended work.56 Other research found that residents were most exposed to blood-borne pathogens through needle punctures or cuts during overnight duty periods.57
Health care facilities that have physicians working in them have a role in supporting and promoting provider well-being, including providing enablers of extending and continuing resiliency such as nutritious food, on call rooms, appropriate numbers of staff, locums, etc. They also have a role in working jointly and collaboratively with physicians to ensure that on-call schedules do not place work demands on individual physicians that prevent the physicians from providing safe patient care and service coverage. For example, research with emergency physicians suggests that a nap at 3 AM improves performance in physicians and nurses at 7:30 AM compared to a no-nap condition despite the fact that memory temporarily worsened immediately after the nap.58
Individual resilience, intergenerational differences, illness-related issues, as well as family commitments also need to be considered. Physicians should also be encouraged to take the necessary time to rest and recover on their time off. The obligation of physicians to provide after hour coverage and care is unavoidable and should be considered by an individual when they choose a career in medicine, and as a physician in managing their schedule/call.
A review of 100 studies from around the world indicates the culture of medicine contributes to doctors ignoring the warning signs of fatigue and stress and in many cases suffering from undiagnosed ailments such as stress and depression, or from burnout.59 The authors suggest the culture of medicine is such that doctors feel they don't need help; they put their patients first. Of the 18% of Canadian doctors who were identified as depressed, only a quarter of them considered getting help and only two per cent actually did. The report suggests that burnout from working long hours and sleep deprivation because of understaffing seems to be the biggest problem worldwide.60 The Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA) states that physicians should consider their level of fatigue and if they are clinically fit to provide treatment or care.61 Fatigue is not a sign of weakness. All members of the health care team should support their colleagues in recognizing and managing sleep deprivation and fatigue.
Physician fatigue has several ethical dimensions. The Canadian Medical Association Code of Ethics states that physicians have an ethical responsibility to self-manage their fatigue and well-being. 62 However, physicians must be trained and competent to know their own limits and evaluate their own fatigue level and well-being. The system must then support physicians in this recognition. The doctrine of informed consent is another dimension of physician fatigue. If physician fatigue is an added risk for any aspect of patient care, whether it is surgical or medical, elective or emergent, then some have argued that the doctrine of informed consent suggests that physicians have an obligation to inform patients of that risk.63 ,64 "The medico-legal considerations for physicians centre on the ethical duty to act in the best interests of their patients. This may mean that if a physician feels that his or her on-call schedule endangers or negatively impacts patient care, reasonable steps are taken to ensure patients do not suffer as a result and that the physician is able to continue providing an adequate level of care for patients."65
Addressing physician fatigue may have workforce implications.
Physician workload is multifaceted comprised of clinical, research, education and administrative activities. If physician workload or duty hours are reduced, any one of these activities may be impacted.
It has been suggested that implementing fatigue management strategies such as a workload ceiling for physicians may result in a greater need for physicians and thus increase system costs. However, new models of team based care delivery that incorporate technology, reduce redundancy, utilize a team based approach, and optimize the role of physicians offer an opportunity to better manage physician fatigue without necessarily requiring more physicians. Other strategies also need to be explored to improve the on-the-ground efficiency of physicians.
Some of the strategies to address practicing physician sleep deprivation/fatigue such as scheduling changes and reduced workload may affect access to care, including wait times. Surgeons or others may have to cancel surgeries or other procedures because of fatigue and hours of work, forcing rescheduling of surgery/procedures and potentially increasing wait times. This is particularly relevant given Canada's large geography and varied distribution of physicians. Therefore, flexibility in strategies to address physician sleep deprivation/fatigue are needed to reflect the variety of practice types and settings in existence across the country, in particular solo practices; rural, remote and isolated sites; community locations; etc. The same holds true for smaller specialties, which has been the experience in the UK with the implementation of the EWTD.
Fatigue management is a competency that needs to be taught, modelled, mentored, and evaluated across the medical education continuum, from medical student to practicing physician.
1. Educate physicians about the effects of sleep deprivation and fatigue on the practice of medicine and physician health, and how to recognize and manage their effects.
2. Create a national tool-box of self-awareness tools and fatigue management strategies and techniques.
3. Advocate for the integration of fatigue management into the continuum of medical education.
4. Advocate for the creation of system enablers with the flexibility to:
* Consider the full workload of physicians (clinical, teaching, administrative, research, etc.);
* Optimize scheduling to coordinate on call and other patient care following call; and
* Implement organizational/institutional level fatigue risk management plans.
5. Develop and advocate for implementation of standardized handover tools.
6. Enhance and reaffirm a culture within medicine that focuses on patient-centered care.
7. Reaffirm the culture shift within medicine that encompasses physician well-being.
8. Encourage physicians treating physicians to be aware of the aggravating effects of fatigue on their well-being and practice.
Physicians are interested in how to best meet the needs of the population, in continually improving the care provided to Canadians. To do so requires that they also care for themselves including managing the effects of sleep deprivation and fatigue. It is a complex issue that requires multifaceted solutions. Strategies must address physician fatigue at an individual, organizational/institutional and system level.
1 Leape, LL, Brennan, TA, Laaird, N, Lawthers, AG, Logalio, AR, Barnes, BA et al. (1991).The nature of adverse events in hospitalized patients. New England Journal of Medicine 324 (6): 377-384
2 Brennan, TA, Leape, LL, Nan, M, et al. (1991). Incidence of adverse events and negligence in hospitalized patients: Results of the Harvard Medical Practice Study I. New England Journal of Medicine 324:370-376.
3 Thomas, E., Studdert, D., Burstin, H., et al. (2000). Incidence and types of adverse events and negligent care in Utah and Colorado. Medical Care 38(3): 261-71.
4 Wilson, RL, Runciman, WB, Gibberd, RW, et al. (1995). The Quality in Australian Health Care Study. Medical Journal of Australia 163: 458-471.
5 Vincent, C, Neale, G, & Woloshynowych, M. (2001). Adverse events in British hospitals: preliminary retrospective record review. British Medical Journal 322: 517-9.
6 Baker, G., Norton, P., Flintoft, V., Balis, R., Brown, A., Cox, J., et al. (2004). The Canadian adverse event study: the incidence of adverse events among hospitalized patients in Canada. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 170(11): 1678-1686.
7 Jeffs, L., Law, M., Baker, G., & Norton, P. (2005). Patient Safety Research in Australia, United Kingdom, United States and Canada: A Summary of Research Priority Areas, Agenda-Setting Processes And Directions for Future Research in the Context of their Patient Safety Initiatives. Retrieved from http://www.patientsafetyinstitute.ca/English/news/eventProceedings/Documents/2005%20Research%20Retreat%20-%20Patient%20Safety%20Research%20Backgrounder%20Paper.pdf
8 Leape, L., Brennan, T., Laaird, N., Lawthers, A., Logalio, A., Barnes, B. et al. (1991). The nature of adverse events in hospitalized patients. New England Journal of Medicine 324 (6): 377-384.
9 Moonesinghe, S., Lowery, J., Shahi, N., Millen, A., & Beard, L. (2011). Impact of reduction in working hours for doctors in training on postgraduate medical education and patients' outcomes: systematic review. BMJ 342:d1580.
10 Ulmer, C., Wolman, D., & Johns, M. (eds.) Committee on Optimizing Graduate Medical Trainee (Resident) Hours and Work Schedule to Improve Patient Safety, Institute of Medicine. (2008). Resident Duty Hours: Enhancing Sleep, Supervision, and Safety. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
11 Krueger, K. & Halperin, E. (2010). Perspective: Paying Physicians to Be On Call: A Challenge for Academic Medicine. Academic Medicine 85 (12); 1840-1844.
12 Williamson, A. & Feyer, A. (2000). Moderate Sleep Deprivation Produces Impairments in Cognitive and Motor Performance Equivalent to Legally Prescribed Levels of Alcohol Intoxication. Occupational and Environmental Medicine 57: 649-655.
13 Dawson, D. & Reid, K. (1997). Fatigue, Alcohol and Performance Impairment. Nature 388: 235.
14 Arnedt, J., Owens, J., Crouch, M., et al. (2005). Neurobehavioral Performance of Residents After Heavy Night Call vs After Alcohol Ingestion. Journal of American Medical Association 294(9): 1025-33.
15 Howard, S., Gaba, D., Smoth, B., et al. (2003). Simulation Study of Rested Versus Sleep-deprived Anesthesiologists. Anesthesiology 98:1345-1355
16 Philbert, I. (2005). Sleep Loss and Performance in Residents and Nonphysicians: A Meta-analytic Examination. Sleep 28: 1392-1402.
17 Lockley, S., Barger, L., Ayas, N., Rothschild, J., Czeisler, C. et al. (2007). Effects of Health Care Provider Work Hours and Sleep Deprivation on Safety and Performance. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety 3(11): 7-18.
18 Eastridge, B., Hamilton, E., O'Keefe, G., Rege, R., Valentine, R. et al. (2003). Effect of sleep deprivation on the performance of simulated laproscopic surgical skill. The American Journal of Surgery 186: 169-174
19 Taffinder, N., McManus, I., Hul, Y., Russell, R., & Darzi, A. (1998). Effect of Sleep Deprivation on Surgeon's Dexterity on Laparsoscopy Simulator. The Lancet 352: 1191.
20 Rothschild, J., Keohane, C., Rogers, S., et al. (2009). Risks of Complications by Attending Physicians After Performing Nighttime Procedures. JAMA 302:1565-72.
21 Lockley, S., Cronin, J., Evans, E., Cade, B., Lee, C., et al. (2004). Effect of Reducing Interns' Weekly Work Hours on Sleep and Attentional Failures. N Engl J Med 351: 1829-1837.
22 Landrigan, C., Rothschild, J., Cronin, J., Kaushal, R., Burdick, E., et al. (2004). Effect of Rreducing Interns' Work Hours on Serious Medical Errors in Intensive-care Units. N Engl J Med 351: 1838-1848.
23 Barger, L., Ayas, N., Cade, B., Cronin, J., Rosner, B., et al. (2006). Impact of Extended-Duration Shifts on Medical Errors, Adverse Events, and Attentional Failures. PLoS Med 3(12): 2440-2448.
24 Landrigan, C., Rothschild, J., Cronin, J., et al. (2004). Effect of Reducing Interns' Work Hours on Serious Medical Errors in Intensive Care Units. New England Journal of Medicine 351:1838-48.
25 Van Dongen, H., Baynard, M., Maislin, G., et al. (2004). Systematic interindividual differences in neurobehavioral impairment from sleep loss: evidence of a trait-like differential vulnerability. Sleep 27: 423-433.
26 Philibert,I., Nasca, T., Brigham, T., & Shapiro, J. (2013). Duty-Hour Limits and Patient
Care and Resident Outcomes: Can High-Quality Studies Offer Insight into Complex
Relationships? Annu. Rev. Med 64: 467-83.
27 Volpp, K., Rosen, A., Rosenbaum, PR., et al. (2007). Mortality Among Hospitalized Medicare Beneficiaries in the First 2 Years Following the ACGME Resident Duty Hour Reform. JAMA 298: 975-983.
28 Volpp, K., Rosen, A., Rosenbaum, P., et al. (2007). Mortality Among Patients in VA Hospitals in the First 2 Years Following ACGME Resident Duty Hour Reform. JAMA 298(9): 984-992.
29 Antiel, R., Reed, D., Van Arendonk, K., Wightman, S., Hall, D., Porterfield, J., et al. (2013). Effects of Duty Hour Restrictions on Core Competencies, Education, Quality of Life, and Burnout Among General Surgery Interns. JAMA Surg 148(5):448-455.
30 Drolet, B., Sangisetty, S., Tracy, T., & Cioffi, W. (2013). Surgical Residents' Perceptions of 2011 Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education Duty Hour Regulations. JAMA Surg 148(5): 427-433.
31 Chang, L., Mahoney, J., Raty, S., Ortiz, J., Apodaca, S., & De La Garza II, R. (2013). Neurocognitive effects following an overnight call shift on faculty anesthesiologists. Acta Anaesthesiol Scand 57: 1051-1057.
32 Sharpe, J., Weinberg, J., Magnotti, L., Nouer, S., Yoo, W., Zarzaur, B. et al. (2013). Outcomes of Operations Performed by Attending Surgeons after Overnight Trauma Shifts. J Am Coll Surg 216:791- 799.
33 Olsen, E., Drage, L., Auger, R. (2009). Sleep Deprivation, Physician Performance, and Patient Safety. Chest 136: 1389-1396.
34 Choma, N., Vasilevskis, E., Sponsler, K., Hathaway, J., & Kripalani, S. Effect of the ACGME 16-Hour Rule on Efficiency and Quality of Care: Duty Hours 2.0. JAMA INTERN MED 173 (9): 819-821.
35 Canadian Medical Protective Association. (2013). CMPA Risk Fact Sheet: Patient Handover. Retrieved January 13, 2014 from https://oplfrpd5.cmpa-acpm.ca/documents/10179/300031190/patient_handovers-e.pdf
36 Nicol, A., Botterill, J., (2004). On-call Work and Health: A Review. Environmental Health 3: 1-11.
37 Knutsson, A. & Boggild, H. (2010). Gastrointestinal disorders among shift workers. Scand J Work Environ Health 36(2): 85-95.
38 Vyas, M., Garg, A., Iansavichus, A., Costella, J., Donner, A., Laugsand, L., et al. (2012). Shift work and vascular events: systematic review and meta-analysis. British Medical Journal 345: e4800 doi: 10.1136/bmj.e4800
39 Shields, M. (2002). Shift work and health. Health Reports 13(4):11-33.
40 Fritschi, L., Glass, D., Heyworth, J., Aronson, K., Girschik, J., Boyle, T., et al. (2011). Hypotheses for mechanisms linking shiftwork and cancer. Medical Hypotheses 77:430-436.
41 Kubo, T., Ozasa, K., Mikami, K., Wakai, K., Fujino, Y., Watanabe, Y., et al. (2006). Prospective cohort study of the risk of prostate cancer among rotating-shift workers: findings from the Japan Collaborative Cohort Study. American Journal of Epidemiology 164(6): 549-555.
42 Schernhammer, E., Laden, F., Speizer, F., Willett, W., Hunter, D., Kawachi, I., et al. (2003). Night-shift work and risk of colorectal cancer in the Nurses' Health Study. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 95(11):825-828.
43 Shields, M. (2002). Shift work and health. Health Reports 13(4):11-33.
46 Occupational Cancer Research Centre and the Institute for Work & Health. Can the health effects of shift work be mitigated? A summary of select interventions. Retrieved March 10, 2013 from http://www.occupationalcancer.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Summary_intervention-research_FINAL.pdf
47 Eastridge, B., Hamilton, E., O'Keefe, G., Rege, R., Valentine, R. et al. (2003). Effect of Sleep Deprivation on the Performance of Simulated Laproscopic Surgical Skill. The American Journal of Surgery 186: 169-174.
48 Krueger, K. & Halperin, E. (2010). Perspective: Paying Physicians to Be On Call: A Challenge for Academic Medicine. Academic Medicine 85(12); 1840-1844.
49 Haines, V., Marchand, A., Rousseau, V., & Demers, A. (2008).The mediating role of work-to-family conflict in the relationship between shiftwork and depression. Work & Stress 22(4):341-356.
50 Jamal, M. (2004). Burnout, stress and health of employees on non-standard work schedules: a study of Canadian workers. Stress and Health 20:113-119.
51 Woodrow, S., Segouin, C., Armbruster, J., Hamstra, S., & Hodges, B. (2006). Duty Hours Reforms in the United States, France and Canada: Is It Time to Refocus our Attention on Education? Academic Medicine 81(12): 1045-1051.
52 Baldwin, D., Daugherty, S., Tsai, R., et al. (2003). A National Survey of Residents' Self-reported Work Hours: Thinking Beyond Specialty. Academic Medicine 78:1154-1163.
53 Hamadani, F., Deckelbaum, D., Sauve, D., Khwaja, K., Razek, T., & Fata, P. (2013). Abolishment of24-HourContinuousMedical Call Duty in Quebec: A Quality of Life Survey of General Surgical Residents Following Implementation of the New Work-Hour Restrictions. J Surg 70: 296-303.
54 Folkard, S. & Tucker, P. (2003). Shift work, safety and productivity. Occupational Medicine 53: 95-101.
55 Ayas, N., Barger, L., Cade, B., et al. (2006). Extended Work Duration and the Risk of Self-reported Percutaneous Injuries in Interns. JAMA 296(9): 1055-62.
56 Ayas, N., Barger, L., Cade, B., et al. (2006). Extended Work Duration and the Risk of Self-reported Percutaneous Injuries in Interns. JAMA 296(9): 1055-62.
57 Parks, D., Yetman, R., McNeese, M., Burau, K., & Smolensky, M. (2000). Day-night pattern in accidental exposures to blood-borne pathogens among medical students and residents.
Chronobiology International 17(1): 61-70.
58 Smith-Coggins, R., Howard, S., Mac D., Wang, C., Kwan, S., Rosekind, M., Sowb, Y., Balise, R., Levis, J., Gaba, D. (2006). Improving alertness and performance in emergency department physicians and nurses: the use of planned naps. Ann Emerg Med, 48(5): 596-604.
59 Wallace, J., Lemaire, J., & Ghali, W. (2009). Physician wellness: a missing quality indicator. The Lancet 374 (9702): 1714-1721.
60 Wallace, J., Lemaire, J., & Ghali, W. (2009). Physician wellness: a missing quality indicator. The Lancet 374 (9702): 1714-1721.
61 Canadian Medical Protective Association. The new realities of medical care. Originally published September 2012. Retrieved January 12, 2014 from https://oplfrpd5.cmpa-acpm.ca/en/duties-and-responsibilities/-/asset_publisher/bFaUiyQG069N/content/the-new-realities-of-medical-care
62 Canadian Medical Association. (2011). Canadian Medical Association Code of Ethics. Ottawa: Author.
63 Mercurio. M. & Peterec, S. (2009). Attending Physician Work Hours: Ethical Considerations and the Last Doctor Standing. Pediatrics 124:758-762.
64 Czeisler, C., Pellegrini, C., & Sade, R. (2013). Should Sleep-Deprived Surgeons Be Prohibited From Operating Without Patients' Consent? Ann Thorac Surg 95:757-766.
65 Canadian Medical Protective Association. The new realities of medical care. Originally published September 2012. Retrieved January 12, 2014 from https://oplfrpd5.cmpa-acpm.ca/en/duties-and-responsibilities/-/asset_publisher/bFaUiyQG069N/content/the-new-realities-of-medical-care
CMA Policy : Rural and Remote Practice Issues
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) believes that all Canadians should have reasonable access to uniform, high quality medical care. The CMA is concerned, however, that the health care infrastructure and level of professional support in rural and remote areas are insufficient to provide quality care and retain and recruit physicians relative to community needs. The CMA has developed this policy to outline specific issues and recommendations that may help retain and recruit physicians to rural and remote areas of Canada and thereby improve the health status of rural and remote populations. The following 3 key issue areas are addressed in this policy: training, compensation and work/lifestyle support. Commitment and action by all stakeholders, including governments, medical schools, professional associations and others, are urgently required.
Canadian physicians and other health care professionals are greatly frustrated by the impact that health care budget cuts and reorganization have had, and continue to have, on the timely provision of quality care to patients and general working conditions. For many physicians who practise in rural and remote communities, the impact is exacerbated by the breadth of their practice, as well as long working hours, geographic isolation, and lack of professional backup and access to specialist services.
This policy has been prepared to help governments, policy-makers, communities and others involved in the retention and recruitment of physicians understand the various professional and personal factors that must be addressed to retain and recruit physicians to rural and remote areas of Canada. This policy applies to both general practitioners/family physicians as well as specialists. The CMA believes that this policy must be considered in the context of other relevant CMA policies, including but not limited to Physician Health and Wellbeing, Physician Compensation, Physician Resource Planning, Principles for a Re-entry System in Canadian Postgraduate Medical Education and Charter for Physicians. In addition, any strategies that are developed should not be coercive and must include community and physician input; they must also be comprehensive, flexible and varied to meet and respond to local needs and interests.
Rural and remote
There are no standard, broadly accepted terms or definitions for "rural" and "remote" since they cannot be sufficiently defined to reflect the unique and dynamic nature of the various regions and communities that could presumably be labelled as such.
The terms "rural" or "remote" medicine may be applied to many things: the physicians themselves, the population they serve, the geography of the community or access to medical services. For each of these factors, there are a number of ways to define and measure rurality. For example, a 1999 CMA survey of rural physicians showed that the most frequently mentioned characteristics of a rural community were (1) high level of on-call responsibilities, (2) long distance to a secondary referral centre, (3) lack of specialist services and (4) insufficient family physicians. As another example, Statistics Canada defines rural and small town residents for some analyses as those living in communities outside Census Metropolitan Areas (population of at least 100 000) or Census Agglomerations (population between 10 000 and 99 999), and where less than 50% of the workforce commute to a larger urban centre.
For the purposes of this policy, a medical school is understood to encompass the entire continuum of
medical education, i.e., undergraduate, postgraduate, continuing medical education and maintenance of
Some Canadian studies have shown that medical trainees who were raised in rural communities have a greater tendency to return to these or similar communities to practise medicine. Some studies also show that individuals who do clerkships in rural or remote communities, or have some exposure to the rural practice environment during residency training, have a greater tendency to consider practising in rural or remote communities upon graduation. The CMA applauds those medical schools that promote careers in medicine to individuals from rural and remote areas and provide medical students and residents with exposure to rural practice during their training. Regular collaboration and communication among training directors for rural and remote programs, as well as rural medical educators and leaders from other health disciplines, are strongly encouraged so that rural training issues and possible linkages may be discussed. The benefits of rural training extend not only to those physicians who ultimately end up in rural practice; those who remain in urban areas also benefit by having an enhanced understanding of the challenges of rural and remote practice.
As outlined in the CMA’s 1992 Report of the Advisory Panel on the Provision of Medical Services in Underserviced Regions, the CMA believes that partnerships among medical schools, the practising profession and communities need to be formalized, particularly since medical schools have a crucial role in helping to recruit and retain physicians for rural and remote communities. The medical school’s role in such a partnership takes the form of a social contract. This contract begins with the admission of students who demonstrate a prior interest in working in rural or remote communities and may come from these communities. It also includes the exposure of students to rural practice during their undergraduate and postgraduate training. It is followed by the provision of specialized training for the conditions in which they will work and ongoing educational support during their rural and remote practice. For these reasons, the CMA strongly encourages academic health science centres (AHSCs), provincial governments, professional associations and rural communities to work together to formally define the geographic regions for which each AHSC is responsible. The AHSCs are also encouraged to include within their mission a social contract to contribute to meeting the health needs of their rural or remote populations.
Practising physicians are committed to lifelong learning. In order to preserve a high standard of quality care to their patients, they must be knowledgeable about new clinical and technological advances in medicine; they must also continually develop advanced or additional clinical skills in, for example, obstetrics, general surgery and anaesthesia, to better serve the patients in their communities, especially when specialist services are not readily available. There are many practical and financial barriers that physicians in rural and remote communities face in obtaining and maintaining additional skills training, including housing, practice and other costs (e.g., locum tenens replacement expenses) while they are away from work. The CMA strongly encourages governments to develop and maintain mechanisms, such as compensation or additional tax relief, to reduce the barriers associated with obtaining advanced or additional skills training.
In light of these issues, the CMA recommends that
1. Universities, governments and others encourage and fund research into criteria that predispose students to select and succeed in rural practice.
2. All medical students, as early as possible at the undergraduate level, be exposed to appropriately funded and accredited rural practice environments.
3. Medical schools develop training programs that encourage and promote the selection of rural practice as a career.
4. Universities work with professional associations, governments and rural communities to determine the barriers that prevent rural students from entering the profession, and take appropriate action to eliminate or reduce these barriers.
5. A Web site based compendium of rural experiences and electives for medical students be developed, maintained and adequately funded.
6. Advanced skills acquisition and maintenance opportunities be provided to physicians practising in or going to rural and remote areas.
7. CMA divisions and provincial/territorial governments ensure that physicians who work in rural and remote areas receive full remuneration while obtaining advanced skills, including support for the locum tenens who will replace them.
8. Any individual formally enrolled in a Royal College of Physicians of Surgeons of Canada or College of Family Physicians of Canada program be covered by the collective agreement of their housestaff organization.
9. Providers, funders and accreditors of continuing medical education for rural physicians ensure that the continuing medical education is developed in close collaboration with rural physicians and is accessible, needs-based and reflective of rural physicians’ scope of practice.
10. Physicians who practise in rural or remote areas be given reasonable opportunities to
re-enter training in a postgraduate program without any return-in-service obligations.
11. In order to promote mutual understanding, universities encourage teaching faculty to work in rural practices and that rural physicians be invited to teach in academic health science centres.
12. Medical schools develop training programs for both students and residents that encourage and promote the provision of skills appropriate to rural practice needs.
13. Medical schools support rural faculty development and provide full faculty status to these
The CMA believes that compensation for physicians who practise in rural and remote areas must be flexible and reflect the full spectrum of professional and personal factors that are often inherent to practising and living in such a setting. These professional factors may include long working hours and the need for additional competencies to meet community needs, such as advanced obstetrics, anaesthesia and general surgery, as well as psychotherapy and chemotherapy. They may also include a high level of on-call responsibilities as well as a lack or total absence of backup from specialists, nurses and other complementary services that are usually available in an urban environment. Other challenges are professional isolation, limited opportunities for education or training, and high practice start-up costs. Also, if for a number of reasons a physician wishes to relocate to an urban setting, he or she may face billing restrictions as well as challenges in finding a replacement physician. Compensation for these factors is necessary to help retain physicians and recruit new ones. In addition, compensation should guarantee protected time off, paid continuing medical education or additional skills training, and locum tenens coverage. Any pool of locum tenens for rural and remote practice should be adequately funded and cross-jurisdictional licensure issues should be minimized.
Living in a rural or remote community can be very satisfying for many physicians and their families; however, they must usually forgo — often for an extended period of time— a number of urban advantages and amenities. These include educational, cultural, recreational and social opportunities for their spouse or partner, their children and themselves. They may also face altered family dynamics due to a decrease or significant loss of family income if there are limited or no suitable employment opportunities for their spouse or partner.
The CMA believes that all physicians should have a choice of payment options and service delivery models to reflect their needs as well as those of their patients. Physicians must receive fair and equitable remuneration and have a practice environment that allows for a reasonable quality of life. Although the CMA does not advocate one payment system for urban physicians and another for rural physicians, it believes that enhanced total compensation should be provided to physicians who work and live in rural and remote communities.
In recognition of these issues, the CMA recommends that
14. Additional compensation to physicians working in rural and remote areas reflect the following areas: degree of isolation, level of responsibility, frequency of on-call, breadth of practice and additional skills.
15. In recognition of the differences among communities, payment modalities retain flexibility and reflect community needs and physician choice.
16. Financial incentives focus on retaining physicians currently practising in rural or remote areas and include a retention bonus based on duration of service.
17. Factors affecting the social and professional isolation of physicians and their families be considered in the development of compensation packages and working conditions.
18. Eligibility criteria for including physicians in a pool of locum tenens for rural or remote practice be developed in consultation with rural physicians.
19. Provincial/territorial licensing bodies establish portability of licensure for locum tenens and ensure that any fees or processes associated with licensure do not serve as barriers to interprovincial mobility.
20. Rural locum tenens programs be funded by provincial/territorial governments and include adequate compensation for accommodation, transportation and remuneration.
As previously noted, some studies show that exposure to rural and remote areas during training influences students’ decision to practise in those communities upon graduation. The CMA is concerned, however, that travel and accommodation costs relating to these experiences place an undue financial burden on students. In addition, most physicians in rural and remote areas are already burdened with significant patient loads and find that they have limited time and resources to act as preceptors. The CMA believes that, to ensure the ongoing viability of student rural experiences, physician preceptors should be compensated for their participation and should not incur any additional expenses, such as student or resident accommodation costs.
The CMA recommends that
21. Costs for accommodation and travel for student and resident rural training experiences in Canada not be borne by the trainees or the preceptors.
22. Training programs assume responsibility for adequately remunerating preceptors in rural or remote areas.
Work and lifestyle support issues
To retain and recruit physicians in rural and remote communities, there are issues beyond fair and adequate compensation that must be considered. It is crucial that the aforementioned working conditions, professional issues and array of personal and family-related issues be addressed. The ultimate goal should be to promote physician retention and implement measures that reduce the possibility of physician burnout.
Like most people, physicians want to balance their professional and personal responsibilities to allow for a reasonable quality of life. Physicians in rural and remote areas practise in high stress environments that can negatively affect their health and well-being; as a consequence, the standard of care to their patients can suffer. The stress is intensified by excessive work hours, limited professional backup or support (including locum tenens), limited access to specialists, inadequate diagnostic and treatment resources, and limited or no opportunity for vacation or personal leave. At particular risk for burnout is the physician who practises in isolation. For these reasons many physicians, when considering practice opportunities, tend to seek working conditions that will not generate an excessive toll on their non-working lives. This reinforces the need for rural and remote practice environments that facilitate a balance between physicians’ professional and personal lives.
In light of these issues, the CMA recommends that
23. Regardless of community size, there should always be at least 2 physicians available to serve the
needs of the community.
24. Ideally, the on-call requirement for weekends never exceed 1 in 5 in any Canadian practice.
(This is consistent with current CMA policy.)
25. Provincial/territorial governments have professional support and other mechanisms readily
available to physicians who practise in rural and remote areas, such as sabbaticals and locum
26. Governments recognize the service of rural and remote physicians by ensuring that
mechanisms exist to allow future access to practise in an urban area of their choice.
The CMA believes that rural and remote physician retention and recruitment initiatives must address matters relating to professional isolation as well as social isolation for physicians and their families. This sense of isolation can increase when there are cultural, religious or other differences. For unattached physicians, zero tolerance and unreasonable restrictions with regard to relationships with potential patients can be disincentives to practise in rural or remote communities. Although the CMA believes that such policies and restrictions should be reviewed, the CMA encourages physicians to refer to the CMA policy on The Patient-Physician Relationship and the Sexual Abuse of Patients and the Code of Ethics of the Canadian Medical Association. Also, the CMA recommends that physicians abide by any provincial/territorial policies or legislation that may currently be in place.
The medical services infrastructure in rural and remote areas is usually very different from that in urban settings. In addition to a lack of specialist services, physicians in these areas may often have to cope with a number of other factors such as limited or no appropriate diagnostic equipment or limited hospital beds. Physicians and their patients expect and deserve quality care. The diversity and needs of the populations, as well as the needs of the physicians who practise in rural and remote areas, must also be recognized and reflected in the infrastructure (e.g., demographic and geographical considerations).
The CMA recommends that
27. A basic medical services infrastructure for rural and remote areas be defined, such as hospital beds, paramedical staff, diagnostic equipment, transportation, ready access to secondary and tertiary services, as well as information technology tools and support.
28. Provincial/territorial governments recognize that physicians who work in rural and remote areas need an environment that appropriately supports them in providing service to the local population.