Medical Residents Exceed Work Limits, Compromise Safety

Medical Residents Exceed Work Limits, Compromise Safety

A study published early this week found that a significant percentage of medical interns are still working excessive hours despite mandatory standards, which were created to reduce medical mistakes.

Researchers at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital conducted a survey of more than 4,000 interns to determine the rate of compliance with the safety standards laid out in 2003 by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

Eighty percent of medical residents said they violated those standards, which limit work weeks to 80 hours with no more 30 hours in a shift. The survey was taken in 2004, a year after the rules were implemented.

“Things have not improved at all and may even be a little bit worse,” said Dr. Christopher Landigran, chief author of the study.

The standards were initially prompted by concerns that long hours were leading to more medical mistakes and also compromising the health of the interns. However, the rules exceed even the safety standards for occupations like pilots and truck drivers.

A separate study, also published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that lack of sleep among interns led to more needle sticks and punctures – potentially exposing them to blood-borne diseases.

“The evidence out there is that extended shifts greater than 12 to 16 hours are simply unsafe, but the medical community refuses to act,” said Simon Ahtaridis, who is the president of a 12,000-member intern union.

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