Forty-one percent of doctors in the United States acknowledged that fatigue is the number one cause of their own medical errors. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) agrees that limiting the number of hours logged weekly by medical residents can improve safety and the well-being of patients and doctors. A recent study of health care providers found that nursing shifts that exceed 12 hours result in error rates that are three times higher than for nurses working shorter shifts. But even with all of the support for the new, more ergonomic, and shorter shifts that the ACGME has prescribed for medical residents, there are dissenters: existing doctors.
The problem, reports the Associated Press, is that the doctors coming out of medical school are now regularly working fewer hours than some of their predecessors. While the changes in the hours are intended to better the quality of care for patients and reduce fatigue-induced errors, they have also caused problems between residents and a few experienced doctors.
“All of these changes have been done with an eye toward improving the quality of patient care,” Dr. Jordan Cohen, president of the American Association of Medical Colleges, told the Associated Press. The changes include limiting the number of hours medical residents can work to no more than 80-hours per week with a required 10 hours off between shifts.
And Dr. Jeff Huebner, a third-year medical resident at the University of Washington in Seattle who credits the new hours with giving him increased energy with which to do his work, agrees. But Huebner can understand the source of the problem