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Sleep and work in ICU physicians during a randomized trial of nighttime intensivist staffing

Critical Care Medicine July 1, 2019

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Research Areas


OBJECTIVES: To compare sleep, work hours, and behavioral alertness in faculty and fellows during a randomized trial of nighttime in-hospital intensivist staffing compared with a standard daytime intensivist model.

DESIGN: Prospective observational study.

SETTING: Medical ICU of a tertiary care academic medical center during a randomized controlled trial of in-hospital nighttime intensivist staffing.

PATIENTS: Twenty faculty and 13 fellows assigned to rotations in the medical ICU during 2012.

INTERVENTIONS: As part of the parent study, there was weekly randomization of staffing model, stratified by 2-week faculty rotation. During the standard staffing model, there were in-hospital residents, with a fellow and faculty member available at nighttime by phone. In the intervention, there were in-hospital residents with an in-hospital nighttime intensivist. Fellows and faculty completed diaries detailing their sleep, work, and well-being; wore actigraphs; and performed psychomotor vigilance testing daily.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Daily sleep time (mean hours [SD]) was increased for fellows and faculty in the intervention versus control (6.7 [0.3] vs 6.0 [0.2]; p < 0.001 and 6.7 [0.1] vs 6.4 [0.2]; p < 0.001, respectively). In-hospital work duration did not differ between the models for fellows or faculty. Total hours of work done at home was different for both fellows and faculty (0.1 [< 0.1] intervention vs 1.0 [0.1] control; p < 0.001 and 0.2 [< 0.1] intervention vs 0.6 [0.1] control; p < 0.001, respectively). Psychomotor vigilance testing did not demonstrate any differences. Measures of well-being including physical exhaustion and alertness were improved in faculty and fellows in the intervention staffing model.

CONCLUSIONS: Although no differences were measured in patient outcomes between the two staffing models, in-hospital nighttime intensivist staffing was associated with small increases in total sleep duration for faculty and fellows, reductions in total work hours for fellows only, and improvements in subjective well-being for both groups. Staffing models should consider how work duration, sleep, and well-being may impact burnout and sustainability.


National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute ( NHLBI)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)