Last week the AASM and the Sleep Research Society (SRS) released a joint statement calling on the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) to implement safer work hours for resident physicians. The AASM and the SRS maintain that: Duty hours for resident physicians must be limited to 16 consecutive hours; duty hours for resident physicians must be limited to 80 hours per week; and duty hours must include at least one 24-hour off-duty period per 7-day period without averaging.

On Wednesday, June 23, the ACGME presented new draft standards proposed by the ACGME Resident Duty Hours Task Force. A commentary from the ACGME also was published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Under these draft standards, the recommended maximum weekly work hours would stay the same as the ACGME’s current standard of 80 hours per week averaged over four weeks, and all moonlighting would be included in this total. Although duty periods for first-year residents would be reduced to no more than 16 hours, duty periods of up to 24 hours of continuous duty in the hospital would be allowed for second-year residents and above. The ACGME draft standards also propose more specific requirements for alertness management and fatigue mitigation strategies.

The proposed standards are posted on the ACGME website for 45 days of public comment. The comment deadline is Aug. 9, 2010, and the ACGME has requested that comments be submitted through a specific format. The AASM will conduct a thorough review of the proposed standards and will submit comments to the ACGME on this important issue. The ACGME anticipates that the new requirements will be forwarded to the board of directors for final approval in September 2010, with implementation of the new standards expected to take place in July 2011.