Do shorter shifts for interns at the hospital endanger patients?

Posted on Jul 24, 2013

Interns are first-year residents, fresh out of medical school. Before the traditional maximum allowable shift was 30 straight hours for the least experienced doctors. However, studies started to show a correlation between the number of hours interns worked and the amount of medical errors they would make. The long hours working in the hospital caused fatigue, which resulted with mistakes that caused serious medical errors and injuries. Many interns were burnt out from being so sleep-deprived.

So, in 2011, Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education reduced the maximum allowable shift to 16 hours. This reduction on the maximum amount of hours was to reduce the amount of medical errors that occurred.

However, recent studies show that shorter shifts means cramming more work into fewer hours. Interns attended fewer educational programs to avoid breaking the new limitation of their work hours. Many doctors argued that the level of quality of patient care reduced as a price for well-alert interns.

So, should patients be watched over by interns who are sleep deprived or interns who are alert but not as knowledgeable?

The answer is neither. The medical education system is constantly being modified to provide the best patient care and safety in hospitals. Until they reach that goal, patients are vulnerable to the flaws of the system.

If you believe that you or your loved one was a victim of the hospital’s errors, call us at (202) 393-3320. We’ll find the answers together.

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