Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 27, Issue 11, pp 1432–1437 | Cite as

The Composition of Intern Work While on Call

  • Kathlyn E. FletcherEmail author
  • Alexis M. Visotcky
  • Jason M. Slagle
  • Sergey Tarima
  • Matthew B. Weinger
  • Marilyn M. Schapira
Original Research



The work of house staff is being increasingly scrutinized as duty hours continue to be restricted.


To describe the distribution of work performed by internal medicine interns while on call.


Prospective time motion study on general internal medicine wards at a VA hospital affiliated with a tertiary care medical center and internal medicine residency program.


Internal medicine interns.


Trained observers followed interns during a “call” day. The observers continuously recorded the tasks performed by interns, using customized task analysis software. We measured the amount of time spent on each task. We calculated means and standard deviations for the amount of time spent on six categories of tasks: clinical computer work (e.g., writing orders and notes), non-patient communication, direct patient care (work done at the bedside), downtime, transit and teaching/learning. We also calculated means and standard deviations for time spent on specific tasks within each category. We compared the amount of time spent on the top three categories using analysis of variance.


The largest proportion of intern time was spent in clinical computer work (40 %). Thirty percent of time was spent on non-patient communication. Only 12 % of intern time was spent at the bedside. Downtime activities, transit and teaching/learning accounted for 11 %, 5 % and 2 % of intern time, respectively.


Our results suggest that during on call periods, relatively small amounts of time are spent on direct patient care and teaching/learning activities. As intern duty hours continue to decrease, attention should be directed towards preserving time with patients and increasing time in education.


time-motion study graduate medical education 



Contributors: The authors wish to thank Amanda Grippen, Nathan Meyer, Andrew Kordus, Kimberly Spencer, Jessica Schmidt, Sherrie Smaxwill, Eric Porterfield, and Lance Trautman for their contributions to this project.


This study was funded by the VA HSRD, grant #PP0 09-259-01

Prior presentations

Part of this work was presented at the VA HSR&D meeting in Washington, DC in February 2011.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they do not have a conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11606_2012_2120_MOESM1_ESM.doc (64 kb)
ESM 1 Work categories and tasks associated with them. (DOC 64 kb)


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathlyn E. Fletcher
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Alexis M. Visotcky
    • 2
  • Jason M. Slagle
    • 3
  • Sergey Tarima
    • 2
  • Matthew B. Weinger
    • 4
    • 3
  • Marilyn M. Schapira
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Clement J. Zablocki VAMCMilwaukeeUSA
  2. 2.Medical College of WisconsinMilwaukeeUSA
  3. 3.Vanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA
  4. 4.Tennessee Valley VAMCNashvilleUSA
  5. 5.Philadelphia VAMCPhiladelphiaUSA
  6. 6.University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of MedicinePhiladelphiaUSA

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