Background: The introduction of the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) has greatly reduced training hours of surgical residents, which translates into 30% less surgical and clinical experience. Such a dramatic drop in attendance has serious implications such compromised quality of medical care. As the surgical department of the University of Heidelberg, our goal was to establish a model that was compliant with the EWTD while avoiding reduction in quality of patient care and surgical training. Methods: We first performed workload analyses and performance statistics for all working areas of our department (operation theater, emergency room, specialized consultations, surgical wards and on-call duties) using personal interviews, time cards, medical documentation software as well as data of the financial- and personnel-controlling sector of our administration. Using that information, we specifically designed an EWTD-compatible work model and implemented it. Results: Surgical wards and operating rooms (ORs) were not compliant with the EWTD. Between 5 pm and 8 pm, three ORs were still operating two-thirds of the time. By creating an extended work shift (7:30 am-7:30 pm), we effectively reduced the workload to less than 49% from 4 pm and 8 am, allowing the combination of an eight-hour working day with a 16-hour on call duty; thus, maximizing surgical resident training and ensuring patient continuity of care while maintaining EDTW guidelines. Conclusion: A precise workload analysis is the key to success. The Heidelberg New Working Time Model provides a legal model, which, by avoiding rotating work shifts, assures quality of patient care and surgical training.
Working time model European working time directive EWTD Workload analysis Surgical training Heidelberg