Research suggests that limiting the length of shifts may not cut medical error rates, but restricting hours for doctors in training may offer other reasons for concern.
Los Angeles Times: Limiting Hospital Intern Shifts May Not Cut Errors, Studies Find
It's been 15 years now, but Dr. Sanjay Desai remembers the brutal hours he worked as a young medical intern and how he struggled with fatigue while treating patients. "There were days we were easily working 36 hours straight and you couldn't remember how you got home — if you got home," Desai said. "It wasn't safe." Times have changed. Regulations now demand that teaching hospitals limit first-year trainees to 16-hour shifts. By reducing work hours, medical authorities reasoned, interns would get more sleep, suffer less fatigue and commit fewer mistakes (Morin, 3/25).
Reuters: Resident Work House Limits Introduce New Concerns
Restrictions on work hours for doctors-in-training may end up inadvertently limiting their educational opportunities and increasing errors, new research suggests. Long shifts and lack of sleep among medical residents have long been a concern, leading the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) to introduce restrictions on work hours in 2003 and again in 2011 (Pittman, 3/25).