School of Medicine officials learned Monday that Yale’s general surgery residency program will remain accredited.
The renewal, which is valid for two years, comes eight months after officials were notified that the program could lose its accreditation.
In February, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Management Education threatened to withdraw the program’s accreditation by July 2003 because of reports that residents worked more than 100 hours per week and received substandard education.
To retain the program’s accreditation, Yale-New Haven Hospital officials changed working conditions for surgical residents. Workweeks are now capped at 80 hours and shifts are limited to 24 hours.
University and medical school officials said they expected the program would remain accredited after the changes were implemented.
But even before the hospital modified its regulations regarding working hours, some surgeons said they believed it compared favorably to other hospitals.
“By comparison, Yale has always had it pretty good. It was better than most university places across the country,” said Robert Bell, a professor of surgery at the School of Medicine.
Officials at other medical schools said their surgical residents work longer hours than Yale residents now do.
Surgery residents at Massachusetts General Hospital, which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School, work shifts of 36 or 48 consecutive hours, said Ara Feinstein, a resident at Massachusetts General.
Some former residents questioned whether reducing working hours for the hospital’s general surgery residency program was necessary in the first place.
Rahul Shah, who completed his general surgery residency at Yale-New Haven last year, said that he wasn’t disappointed with Yale’s program despite the long hours.
“I saw no problems with what we had,” he said. “I thought I received actual mentorship, and the quality was great.”
Feinstein agreed that the long hours are not as taxing as they may seem to others.
“I knew what it would be like from the outset, but I’m doing what I love, so I don’t consider it work,” he said.
Still, residents said that they are happy to see the reduction in working hours.
“I’m ecstatic,” Steven Williams, a general surgery resident, told the Boston Globe.
Williams once tried to unionize Yale residents without success, and was among the residents who reported the length of working hours when the accrediting council reviewed Yale’s general surgery residency last year.
Bell said the morale within the program is now “really high.”
“All this has made it a really palatable environment at Yale,” he said. “We really were working a little too hard, but right now everything is much better.”
Despite the mixed opinion, the changes in working hours made recently at Yale-New Haven are likely to be imitated in the near future at other teaching hospitals.
In July, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education will include an 80-hour work week as part of its national guidelines. Congress is also considering whether to enact similar requirements into law.