Educational Experience Impacts Wellness More than Hours Worked

Madhuri B. Nagaraj, Jennie Meier, Rachael Lefevre, Deborah E. Farr, Kareem R. Abdelfattah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has focused its interests on resident wellbeing and the clinical work environment in recent years. Concerns regarding both duty hours as well as service obligations versus education resulted in programs nationwide receiving citations, including ours. This study aimed to evaluate the impact of those 2 factors on surgical residents’ general wellbeing, hypothesizing that service obligations would be a stronger predictor. Design: We have previously reported on the use of a “Fuel Gauge” tool developed at our institution for monitoring resident wellbeing. We performed a retrospective comparison of prospectively collected cross-sectional survey data comparing the Fuel Gauge to a bimonthly “Service Versus Education” (SVE) report. This report used similar scaling and allowed residents to provide feedback on the balance of the educational quality of their current rotation in comparison to their perception of service obligation. Pearson's correlation was then used to compare those scores with duty hour logs to determine if a relationship could be identified between the 3 measurements. Setting: Academic institution of the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, Texas. Participants: Active general surgery residents (n = 73). Results: During the study period, 73 residents filled out both a Fuel Gauge assessment and a SVE assessment at least once, with 273 complete data points available for analysis. Our program's Fuel Gauge median was 4, and our program's median SVE score was 4. Fuel Gauge assessment scores demonstrated a moderate positive correlation with SVE (r = 0.65, p < 0.001), while only a weakly negative association with increasing hours worked (r = -0.15, p = 0.015). SVE also demonstrated a weak negative correlation with hours logged (r = -0.225, p = 0.001). Conclusions: While the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education recognizes that multiple factors contribute to resident wellbeing issues, early efforts were focused on limiting excessive duty hours. Examining our institutional data regarding the previously understudied factor of SVE, we indeed found a stronger correlation with resident perception of low educational value rather than excessive work hours contributing to lower Fuel Gauge scores. These data, if verified, should guide program directors in identifying other institutional factors that may more strongly contribute to their own culture of resident wellness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e137-e142
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022


  • Clinical Learning Environment
  • Duty Hours
  • Resident Wellbeing
  • Service Obligations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Education


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