Should Resident Work Hours be Limited?

July 17, 2013

A recent Washington Post article examines whether limiting resident work hours is best for patients and residents. What do you think?

Two years ago, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education reduced the maximum allowable shift  for first-year-residents from 30 hours to 16 hours. In doing so, it cited studies linking fatigue to serious medical errors and injuries to residents, according to a recent article appearing in the Washington Post.

But according to the article, a new series of studies raises the question: Did limiting work hours actually make things worse?

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Michigan have found that shorter shifts lead to "work compression," according to ThePost. Interns cram more work into fewer hours and they have less opportunity to spend time with patients as their conditions evolve.

The Post also cited a March editorial in JAMA Internal Medicine that stated that shorter workdays are increasing handoffs, which can cause errors as patients are transferred from doctor to doctor.

What do you think? Should first-year resident work hours be limited to 16-hour shifts? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.