Effect of increased inpatient attending physician supervision on medical errors, patient safety, and resident education: a randomized clinical trial.
Over the past decade, with the goal of improving both the educational experience and patient safety, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has introduced regulations restricting resident duty hours and requiring graded supervision by faculty physicians. While many studies have evaluated how duty hour restrictions influence safety outcomes, the impact of different supervisory strategies has been less studied. Conducted on an internal medicine teaching service, this randomized controlled trial examined the effect of two supervisory strategies on patient safety and the educational experience for housestaff. Increased direct supervision (faculty physician physically present for duration of morning rounds, including patient care discussions and encounters with newly admitted and existing patients) was compared to standard supervision (faculty directly supervised residents only for new admissions, meeting later in the day to discuss existing patients). The study used a rigorous, previously developed methodology to track adverse event rates and found no significant difference in safety outcomes between the two groups. Residents perceived that greater supervision led to decreased autonomy in decision-making. Although the study evaluated only direct, in-person supervision, its findings demonstrate that—like reducing duty hours—increasing direct supervision of trainees does not necessarily translate to improving patient safety. The relationship between clinical supervision, education, and patient safety is discussed in a PSNet perspective.