Recently, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) made a dangerous decision to increase work hours for new doctors. Now, new doctor, so called first year residents, can work up to 28 hours in a row for a shift!
This is dangerous not only to patient safety, but to the health and wellbeing of the public as a whole. Obviously, when people are sleep deprived, they make mistakes. This is especially true when the doctor making these critical decisions is brand new to the practice of medicine.
Many older doctors recall the days of unlimited shifts when they routinely worked more than 24 hours at a time. Their horror stories include falling asleep when trying to insert an IV, depression, making medication mistakes, and misreading tests. Moreover, there are numerous documented car accidents that have been caused by overly tired new doctors driving when they have no business being behind the wheel.
The motivating factor behind this decision is cost savings. Hospitals and doctor practice groups reap the benefits of having these new doctors work these excessive hours. The cost is patient safety and the new doctor's health and well being.
What can you do about this new dangerous situation? You are well within your rights to simply ask your doctor at a hospital, “How long have you been on your shift?” If the answer is more than 14 hours, you need to be very careful about that doctor's ability to safely treat you or your loved one.