Emergency Medicine Resident Shift Work Preferences: A Comparison of Resident Scheduling Preferences and Recommended Schedule Design for Shift Workers

Megan L. Rischall, Arlene S. Chung, Ramin Tabatabai, Christopher Doty, Danielle Hart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: Shift work can negatively impact an individual's health, wellness, and quality of work. Optimal schedule design can mitigate some of these effects. The American College of Emergency Physicians has published schedule design guidelines to increase wellness and longevity in the field, but these guidelines are difficult to apply to emergency medicine (EM) residents given their high shift burdens and other scheduling constraints. Little is known is known about EM resident scheduling preferences or ideal schedule design in the context of residency training. Objectives: The objectives were to determine whether EM resident schedule design preferences are consistent with current scheduling guidelines for shift workers and to gather information on scheduling practices that are important to residents. Methods: We surveyed residents at four allopathic EM residency programs and assessed residents’ preferences on various schedule design features including shift length, circadian scheduling, night shift scheduling, and impact of schedule design on personal wellness. Results: Of the 144 residents surveyed, 98% of residents felt that their shift schedule was a key factor in their overall wellness. Residents agreed with shift work guidelines regarding the importance of circadian scheduling (65% favorable), although rated the ability to request a day off and have a full weekend off as more important (84 and 78% favorable responses, respectively). Recommended guidelines promote shorter shifts, but only 24% of residents preferred 8-hour shifts compared to 57, 71, and 43% of residents preferring 9-, 10-, and 12-hour shifts, respectively. Sixty-seven percent of residents preferred their nights to be scheduled in one sequence per 4-week period, a night scheduling strategy most at odds with recommended guidelines. Conclusions: Emergency medicine resident scheduling preferences are not universally consistent with shift work guidelines, likely due to the distinct circumstances of residency training. Residents identify schedule design as a significant factor in their overall wellness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-235
Number of pages7
JournalAEM Education and Training
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 by the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Education
  • Emergency


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