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Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology
Volume 26, Issue 5, Pages 281-284
Original Article

A Cross-Sectional Study of the Association between Overnight Call and Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Medical Students

Malcolm Wells,1 Lee Roth,2 Morgan McWilliam,3 Kim Thompson,3 and Nilesh Chande4

1Department of Medicine, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada
2Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada
3Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, London, Ontario, Canada
4Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, London Health Sciences Centre – Victoria Hospital, London, Ontario, Canada

Received 3 July 2011; Accepted 3 July 2011

Copyright © 2012 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


BACKGROUND: Shift work has been associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which includes gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea. Overnight call shifts also lead to a disruption of the endogenous circadian rhythm.

HYPOTHESIS: Medical students who perform intermittent overnight call shifts will demonstrate a higher prevalence of IBS symptoms when compared with medical students who perform no overnight call shifts.

METHODS: First- and second-year (preclinical) medical students have no overnight call requirements, whereas third- and fourth-year medical (clerkship) students do have overnight call requirements. All medical students at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry (London, Ontario) were invited to complete an anonymous, web-based survey or an identical paper copy that included demographic data, the Rome III questionnaire and the IBS-Quality of Life measure (IBS-QOL). The prevalence of IBS symptoms and quality of life secondary to those symptoms were determined.

RESULTS: Data were available for 247 medical students (110 pre-clinical students, 118 clerkship students and 19 excluded surveys). There was no significant difference in the presence of IBS between preclinical and clerkship students (21 of 110 [19.1%] versus 26 of 118 [22.0%]; P=0.58). The were no significant differences in mean (± SD) IBS-QOL score of those with IBS between preclinical (43.5±8.3) and clerkship students (45.7±13.8) (P=0.53).

CONCLUSIONS: Participation in overnight call was not associated with the development of IBS or a lower quality of life secondary to IBS in medical students.