A day in the life of an internal medicine resident – a time study: What is changed from first to third year?

Jane Wieler, Erik Lehman, Muhammad Khalid, Eileen Hennrikus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: In the past decade, internal medicine residencies have undergone major changes in competency-based assessments, work-hour restrictions and the implementation of the electronic medical record. The aim of this study is to compare a typical day of a first year post-graduate (PGY1) to that of a third year post-graduate (PGY3) internal medicine resident and examine if the differences in their days demonstrate the American Board of Internal Medicine’s (ABIM) desired progression towards competency-based mile-stones and unsupervised practice. Methods: We conducted an observational time study documenting 14,103 minutes, 9 major categories, and 17 subcategories while shadowing 10 internal medicine PGY1s and 10 PGY3s during inpatient, non-call days. The following day, house staff completed surveys of their perceived time allocation of the previous 24 hours. Results: PGY1s spent an average of 12.5 hours managing an average of 6 patients. Thirty-eight percent of their time was spent on the computer, 21% discussing patients and 18% directly with patients. PGY3s, overseeing an average of 12 patients, worked 1.5 hours less per day (p<0.001), had 1.5 hours less computer time (p=0.001), 24 minutes less direct patient contact (p=0.045), and 36 minutes more patient care discussions (p=0.011). Conclusion: The difference between PGY1s’ and PGY3s’ daily time allocations is minimal. Whereas a PGY3 spends 1.5 hours less than a PGY1 on writing computer notes and discharges, they also work 1.5 hours less per day. The additional 36 minutes of patient care discussions was the only significant time quantity difference that would be considered a higher level of practice for the PGY3 compared to the PGY1. With residents now caring for fewer patients, there has been a marked increase in computer time per patient for both PGY1s and PGY3s.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-258
Number of pages6
JournalAdvances in Medical Education and Practice
StatePublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education


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