Resident educational time study: A tale of three specialties

A. Roy Magnusson, Jerris R. Hedges, Pamela Ashley, Richard J. Harper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objective: To compare amounts of in-hospital time use by PGY1 residents during rotations in emergency medicine (EM), internal medicine (IM), and surgery. This article reports the general study methodology and focuses on the educational aspects of residency time use. Methods: A cross-sectional, observational study of the activities of EM PGY1 residents was performed while the residents were on duty during the 3 specialty rotations. The activities were recorded by an observer using a log with predetermined categories for clinical/service, educational, and personal areas. A time- blocked, convenience sample of resident shifts was observed for each service rotation. The sample was proportional to the total number of hours for which a PGY1 resident was expected to be in the hospital during a rotation on that service. No attempt was made to sample the same resident at all time periods or on all rotations. Results: Twelve PGY1 residents were observed for a total of 166 hours on surgery, 156 hours on IM, and 120 hours on EM. These hourly amounts were representative of a typical 2-week span of service on each rotation for the residents. On average, the residents spent 57% of their time on clinical or service-oriented activities, 24% on educational activities, and 19% on personal activities. The proportions of time devoted to the 3 major areas were similar for the 3 rotations. In all 3 rotations, the largest proportion of time was spent on patient-focused education (81% to 92% of total educational time). Only 2% to 11% of educational time was devoted to self-education. Within the patient-focused education category, proportionately less resident time with faculty occurred on the surgery rotation than on the EM and IM rotations (18% vs 30% and 27%, respectively). Conclusion: The general breakdowns of clinical/service, educational, and personal time use by PGY1 residents are proportionately similar for the 3 service rotations. Patient-focused education is the primary mode of education for all services. In-hospital, self-education time is limited. Clinical teaching is largely by nonfaculty. The educational implications of these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)718-725
Number of pages8
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Clinical practice
  • Graduate medical education
  • Resident
  • Time study
  • Training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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