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Will increase in work hours for residents endanger patients?

There is arguably no other profession where it is more important for practitioners to be of sound mind than healthcare. A lapse in thought or judgment by a doctor or nurse could mean committing an avoidable error that endangers a patient's life.

While far too many people are still falling victim to medical errors, the body that grants accreditation to programs that train medical school graduates thinks the solution is to make first-year residents work more hours in a shift. Going forward, first-year residents will be able to work up to 28 consecutive hours in a shift instead of 16, while still being able to work a maximum of 80 hours a week.

Trying to prevent botched handoffs

In a statement announcing the move, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) said that the move "places greater emphasis on patient safety and quality improvement" by avoiding more handoffs between physicians, where crucial information about a patient can slip through the cracks.

In the statement, the ACGME argues that it is necessary for residents to have "real-world" experience, which is why they will be able to work the same amount as other residents.

Can a tired doctor be an effective doctor?

There is no doubt that doctors and nurses deserve a great amount of respect for the often lengthy shifts that they put in to help their patients. However, just like in any other profession, if you are too tired or stressed, you likely will not be able to do your job as well.

A study published just last year found that even "moderate" sleep deprivation - being awake for 17 to 19 hours without sleep - produced similar cognitive and motor function impairments as alcohol consumption. Doctors and nurses who perform their duties under the influence of alcohol or drugs can face harsh disciplinary measures, including the loss of their licenses.

This begs the question: are young residents who are extremely tired and stressed better for patients than more doctors making more handoffs to each other?

Talk to a lawyer for help

It's important to remember your rights as a patient if you feel like your doctor is not capable of providing proper treatment. You can always ask for a second opinion.

If you feel like a doctor or nurse made an avoidable error in treating you or a loved one, our lawyers are ready to talk with you about whether your case rises to the level of medical malpractice and what your options are for receiving compensation for any losses.

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