Training to be a medical doctor has traditionally involved incredibly demanding hours – often as many as 100 hours per week, with residents expected to be on call for 36 hours at a time. Yet the high rate of hospital errors attributed to doctor fatigue led to limitations being placed on how long doctors-in-training could work, with the assumption that fewer hours would translate to fewer mistakes. However, a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine and reported in Time has found that medical interns are making more mistakes despite their less demanding schedules.
The study found that the group of medical interns, which worked no more than 16 hours per shift, was not sleeping more than trainees had prior to the rule change implementing shorter shifts, and that their rate of depression was just as high. Even more surprisingly, the group working fewer hours reported a 15 to 20 percent increase in making errors that “harmed a patient.”
Reasons for this increase in errors may include the fact that interns are still expected to perform just as many duties during their shifts, but in a shorter period of time, leading to a rise in stress levels; many hospitals that mandated the shorter hours failed to hire more staff to offset the workload. The resulting increase in “handoffs,” in which one intern going off duty hands his or her patients to another intern whose shift is just beginning, may contribute to the higher incidence of errors as well.
If you or a loved one has been harmed by a hospital error, contact the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at hmlm.com today.