How many hours can medical residents work?

Source :
Gilman And Bedigian – Lawyer

It’s become an accepted fact that medical residents are overworked and put in long shifts. In fact, almost everyone is familiar with the stereotype of the overworked resident from hospital TV shows, even if they’ve never gone to medical school themselves. Unfortunately, in real life, there may be serious consequences to having medical care provided by a young doctor who has been up for hours-on-end. Authorities have thus tried to limit the number of hours that residents work, but this creates its own set of problems.

Wall Street Journal took a closer look at this issue and at the potential implications of residents working hours. Our Baltimore malpractice lawyers know that doctors who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to make mistakes when they are overly fatigued. Unfortunately, it is patients who suffer and who may be injured or even killed as a result of a medical error made by a resident who isn’t thinking straight.

How Many Hours Can Medical Residents Work?

Today, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has made a number of changes to try to cut down on the number of overworked and sleep deprived residents. It has become well-accepted that not sleeping for 24 hours or longer will reduce your cognitive function and make it hard for you to make good decisions, especially quickly. The Wall Street Journal also reported that doctors were so tired after long shifts, they were falling asleep on their way home. No one wants an ER doctor who cannot think straight, who is asleep on his feet, or who can’t make a snap judgment. The Accreditation Council has tried to prevent this from occurring.

The changes to rules on resident work hours have taken place over time. Prior to 2003, there were no limits on how many hours a resident could be required to put in. This created a situation where medical mistakes were very likely to be made, with some young doctors working 24 hour or 36 hour shifts and getting few rest breaks in between. Overtired doctors could make serious errors.

In 2003, however, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education limited residents to working no more than 80 hours per week. All hospitals who wanted to stay accredited as medical residency programs were required to comply, so this new limit on work hours become standard industry-wide. Unfortunately, it didn’t go far enough because many residents were still being asked to work for too long and were prone to error as a result.

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