Medical school officials will likely learn today whether the school’s surgery residency program will lose its accreditation in July.
The Accreditation Council for Graduate Management Education notified the medical school in February that its accreditation would be withdrawn by July 1, 2003, because of reports that surgical residents worked more than 100 hours per week and received substandard education. The council will decide today whether Yale has sufficiently improved working conditions for the program to be re-accredited, said Doris Stoll, executive director of the council’s residency review committee for general surgery.
Without accreditation, the medical school would be unable to give graduates credentials to become certified specialists. Some residents would have to find another school to complete their training in order to receive certification.
Medical school officials declined to comment on the upcoming decision, citing a policy not to speak to the press. In May, officials told the Chronicle on Higher Education that Yale’s teaching hospital would spend more than $1 million to hire additional staff to bring residents’ workloads down to less than 80 hours per week.
Stoll said the hospital’s administration has taken steps to solve the problems.
“[Residency Program Director John] Seashore and the members of the department of surgery and the hospital administration have done a lot of work to correct any of the areas that we addressed,” she said. “We’re very hopeful that the decision is going to be favorable.”
Prior to its February decision, the council found that Yale’s residents did not consistently get one day off a week and were on call more often than every third night. Both were violations of the council’s accreditation conditions.
One former surgical resident said that although he found the quality of education to be adequate, he said he believed that working hours were harsh.
“When you were on call, by the time it’s said and done, you could be there for about 36 to 48 hours straight,” said the former resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “On average, you may get 1 to 4 hours of sleep on those nights.”
Currently, Yale’s surgery residency program includes 57 residents, with each resident usually enrolling for 3 to 5 years, according to the program’s Web site. Only residents in general surgery would be affected by the decision.
The council review team’s original report on Yale’s surgery residency was written in July 2001, with the recommendation to remove Yale’s accreditation appearing in September. Yale was then given time to appeal the recommendation but the council decided in February 2002 that problems with the program were grave enough to revoke accreditation.
Accreditation standards for residency programs include residents’ work hours and working conditions, education, anti-discrimination policies, number of patients seen, and number of complications and deaths among patients.
Residents are recent medical school graduates who receive on-the-job training at a teaching hospital.
A bill currently in Congress would establish federal guidelines limiting residents to working 80 hours a week. But the accreditation council has argued that such legislation is unnecessary since the council already possesses the power to punish residency programs that are not in compliance with its guidelines.