Supervisors Of Medical Residents Don’t Think Cutting Residents’ Hours Will Reduce Residents’ Fatigue

tired.jpgAccording to a recent study by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, nearly two-thirds of the physicians who supervise medical residents doubt that a new regulation capping residents’ workdays at sixteen hours will reduce residents’ fatigue. (H/t WSJ Health Blog).
According to one of the doctors responsible for this survey, the survey’s respondents might doubt the effectiveness of cutting hours in reducing fatigue for a couple of reasons. First, the residents might not be less fatigued because they might use their time off to do something other than sleep. Second, residents who work fewer hours might rush more to cram all their work into a shorter day, leaving them more frazzled.
Overall, I think the medical profession is simply in denial about the issue of physician fatigue. As I blogged about a few weeks ago, a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology shows that physician fatigue shows that fatigue sets in even over the course of an eight-hour (8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.) workday. By the end of an eight-hour shift, radiologists were twice as likely to make mistakes in reading a simple x-ray.
Doctors always protest that long hours are necessary for residents to learn all that they need to know. But residents are cash cows for teaching hospitals – their low salaries and the high-level tasks that they perform are very lucrative for hospitals. Reducing residents’ hours means that hospitals have to do more of their staffing with more senior doctors, whose salaries are much higher.
It’s time for medicine to come to grips with the problem of physician fatigue.

This blog in maintained by the Boston medical malpractice lawyers at The Law Office of Alan H. Crede, P.C.