The organization that oversees doctor training has just voted to make it legal for young physicians to work as along as 28 hours at a time if necessary. The new rules will be enforced starting July 1.
The new rules alter a series of labor restrictions for doctors in training aka medical residents which were set in place 2011 because work exhaustion put both their lives and their patients’ lives at risk. Under the old rules, first-year residents aka interns cannot work more than 16 hours at a time.
The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education said experienced trainees already work 28-hour shifts and so should interns. The group argued that shorter shifts would affect their education.
The change in rules comes after surgeons complained that their interns had to leave the operating room not to break the 16-hour limit. Public Citizen, which is trying to undo the rules, deemed the changes “reckless”.
The Committee of Interns and Residents which is also working on defeating the proposal criticized the measure saying that medical students are prone to accidents and exhausting during inhumanely-long shifts.
“As a patient, I fear putting my life into the hands of a first-year resident physician who has been awake for 28 hours or longer,”
a spokesperson for the committee said.
On the other hand, residents cannot be forced to work longer than 80 hours per week.
It is worth noting that past research showed lack of sleep is as bad as alcohol consumption when it comes to performance. A study revealed that residents who worked more than 24 hours in an intensive care unit were 36% more likely to make mistakes than their colleagues working shorter shifts.
Those residents were also more likely to get involved in traffic collisions when driving their cars back home. Because of the risks, the oversight group adopted restrictions in 2003 and tightened those restrictions eight years later.