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Safety Report: Doctors and the Shorter Work Days

Posted on July 13, 2010

It has been understood for a long time that a tired doctor-in-training is not a good doctor.

A 2004 study found that medical residents in their first year who were forced to work around-the-clock every third night, were responsible for more than half of preventable medical errors, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

After that study, resident hours were limited to 80 per week, down from 120 hours in one week, according to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), which certifies residency programs.

Now there is another plan from ACGME, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, that the public has 45 days to comment on before the new guidelines go into effect, if approved by the board, in July 2011.

The plan suggests that first-year residents limit their shifts to 16 hours. Second-year residents would be allowed to work continuously up to 24 hours. They can stay an additional four hours to hand patients off to another doctor. The only limit now is a 30 hour shift. Young doctors will also be required to have more direct supervision by experienced doctors in hopes of catching medical errors.

While this sounds like a win-win for the patient, medical institutions estimate fewer work hours from staff will increase costs to each institution of up to $15,000.

That is a bargain when you consider the cost of a Jacksonville medical malpractice lawsuit.

Studies show 98,000 patients die every year as the result of medical errors. What exactly is the cost of a life? If you have been injured by a doctor or suspect a medical error has occurred, you have a time limit within to bring an action. An experienced Florida medical malpractice attorney will always conduct a comprehensive review of your situation.