Clouds of different colors: A prospective look at head and neck surgical resident call experience | Ear, Nose & Throat Journal Skip to content Skip to navigation

Clouds of different colors: A prospective look at head and neck surgical resident call experience

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December 12, 2017
by Jonathan Melzer, MD, LCDR, MC, USN


Graduate medical education programs typically set up call under the assumption that residents will have similar experiences. The terms black cloud and white cloud have frequently been used to describe residents with more difficult (black) or less difficult (white) call experiences. This study followed residents in the department of head and neck surgery during call to determine whether certain residents have a significantly different call experience than the norm. It is a prospective observational study conducted over 16 months in a tertiary care center with a resident training program in otolaryngology. Resident call data on total pages, consults, and operative interventions were examined, as well as subjective survey data about sleep and perceived difficulty of resident call. Analysis showed no significant difference in call activity (pages, consults, operative interventions) among residents. However, data from the resident call surveys revealed perceived disparities in call difficulty that were significant. Two residents were clearly labeled as black clouds compared to the rest. These residents did not have the highest average number of pages, consults, or operative interventions. This study suggests that factors affecting call perception are outside the objective, absolute workload. These results may be used to improve resident education on sleep training and nighttime patient management in the field of otolaryngology and may influence otolaryngology residency programs.

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