The academic commitment in the medical field is known as a rigorous curriculum, however, the medical residency period has a greater reputation of a grueling and exhausting time requirement. Medical residents often work long hours. Long hours at work usually contribute to lost sleep, missed meals, and individuals generally can't be as productive under this circumstances. A sleep-deprived medical resident could make a prescription error, misdiagnose a condition, or make some other medical error that could compromise an innocent patient's care.
NPR recently analyzed 30-hour work shifts that some medical residents are required to work and how errors surfaced in relation to these shifts. Controversy surrounds medical resident hours and the mistakes that more commonly surface from being overworked. Some individuals suggest that shorter shifts could also compromise a patient's care, since multiple doctors caring for a patient may not have a cohesive perspective on the patient's care.
The NPR report also found that medical resident work hours might not just be contributing to possible harm of others, but a resident could harm themselves as well. The research found that a sleep-deprived resident has a greater risk of harming themself when administering IVs, drawing blood, or performing other procedures.
The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education caps shifts at 16 hours for first-year residents, and 24 hours for the following years of a residency. As of this writing a resident may not work more than 80 hours in a week. The 80-hour limit became effective for residencies in 1989, and carried over to many other specialties a few years later. Then the work hours were revised again in 2003, and residencies limits passed in 2011.
It remains to be seen, but the work limitations and requirements for medical residents could likely change again. More research is required, and has been a challenge to monitor.
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