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Increased medical errors result from shorter doctor shifts

Anyone who has spent time in a hospital has seen the tired and haggard faces of the first-year residents who seem to work endless hours without sleep. Most doctors describe their residencies as a time when they typically spent over twenty-four continuous hours seeing patients at busy hospitals in Baltimore and around the country. A concern that exhausted doctors were causing medical errors has fueled a movement to limit the hours of first year doctors. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education issued regulations in 2011 mandating that residents may only work sixteen hours each day.

Analysts have found unexpected results stemming from the recent rule. Because the new doctors are working shorter shifts, patient care is transferred to a different doctor more often. In addition, hospitals have not necessarily added more doctors or staff to make up for the residents’ decreased hours, and residents may feel obligated to complete the same amount of work in less time. Finally, fewer hours can mean less training for doctors fresh out of medical school. These factors have led to preliminary reports that doctor errors and mistakes have actually increased since the rules went into effect.

Patients and their families trust that they are getting the best possible care every time they need to be hospitalized. Whenever a doctor is fatigued, rushed, or constantly transferring a patient to a new doctor between shifts, patient care is compromised. Individuals who have spent time in a hospital and suffered a worsened medical condition due to any type of doctor error may wish to consult with an experienced legal professional to discuss the situation.

Source: Time, “Fewer Hours for Doctors in Training Leading to More Mistakes,” Alexandra Sifferlin, March 26, 2013