Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers: Rule Allows New Doctors to Work 28-Hour ShiftsApril 15, 2017
Effective July 1st, 2017, first-year residents will be expected to work 24 hours without rest, or as long as 28 hours if the transition between doctors requires that the resident remain in duty. According to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), the new rule replaces the previous 16-hour cap, which is a significant increase in hours worked without a break. If the situation requires the intern to work the full 28 hours, that is a 12-hour increase in the intern’s workday. However, the ACGME argues that the new rule will result in fewer disruptions in the team-based approach to care, allowing interns to see their patients through to the end of a particular treatment or procedure.
According to Dr. Anai Kothari, a member of the ACGME task force, the longer shifts do not happen frequently, but when they do, it is a real benefit to both the patient and the intern. For example, if an intern is treating a surgical patient, the 16-hour cap would prevent the new doctor from being able to see the patient through to the end of the surgery if the intern’s shift came to an end. Patients want to know that they have a doctor who is dedicated to their care, and who will see them through to the completion of their treatment.
Critics of the Rule Share Their Concerns
While those in support of the longer shifts tout improved patient care, critics are concerned that sleep-deprived residents who are coming to the end of a 24-hour shift are in danger of making a critical medical mistake. According to Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, there are numerous studies that prove this to be true. The Associated Press reports that both the American Medical Student Association and the Committee of Interns and Residents both oppose the change. Carome believes that the ACGME changed the shift rules after caving to pressure from organized medicine.
Some interns believe that the longer shift requirements are based on a patriarchal hazing system. There is an unspoken message that interns must experience the physical and mental exhaustion simply because the older, more experienced physicians went through it.
The ACGME acknowledges the strong reaction that the new rule elicits, but they also stress that the 24-hour shift rule may not apply to some interns, as it depends on the specialty that the intern chooses. For example, surgical interns may be more likely to experience 24-hour shifts than interns in some other specialties. Regardless of the new rule, residents and fellows may not work more than 80 hours per week, and they must have at least one day off within a seven-day period.
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