Why Residencies Should Fly: Towards a Logical Approach to Duty Hour Reform

Author Department

Internal Medicine; Medicine

Document Type

Article, Peer-reviewed

Publication Date



Since 2011, aviation has revolutionized their approach to safety. The aviation industry has adopted a multi-faceted approach to improve safety through decreasing duty hour limits and implementing processes to mitigate fatigue-related errors as well as creating cultural shifts in responsibility for safety. These changes have been guided by data generated by quality-improvement methodology. In contrast, duty hour limits in graduate medical education have not yet seen dramatic data-driven reform. Key advancements in aviation fatigue mitigation and implications for residency education are explored in this article. Scientifically based processes to optimize duty hours, quality-improvement strategies to iteratively monitor and reform duty limits, systematic change focusing on a just culture, and financial disincentives and incentives as a catalyst for change are discussed.