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Medical Education Council Approves Shorter Doctor Hours

Much recent discussion has involved the risks that new doctors, known as “residents,” pose to the patients in their care. Recent research has shown that medical errors increase when these doctors-in-training begin working at hospitals for the first time. This “July Effect” has now been conclusively shown to cause harm to hospitals patients-particularly when it comes to medication dosage.

In addition to the increased medical mistakes caused by the learning curve, problems also arise when these new doctors are asked to work long hours. For years, a staple of new doctor residency has been the bone-breaking shifts that each are required to work, occasionally 24 hours at a time. These shifts, of course, have led to sleep-deprived doctors and spikes in the medical errors that they commit. Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti have long suggested that there is no excuse for working conditions that compromise patient care. The problem simply must be fixed.

Fortunately, another step has recently been taken to help solve the overworking resident problem. The Associated Press reported this week that the Chicago-based Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education officially announced on Tuesday that new rules have been approved to shorten resident work hours. Those rules had been proposed early in the summer, and now are set to become implemented next July.

Specifically, the new rules will decrease the maximum work shift for first-year residents. They will drop to 16 hours a day from 24 hours. Also, residents will let patients know that they are being supervised by more experienced physicians. The overall weekly hour limit remains unchanged at 800 per week, but “strategic napping” is strongly encouraged.

The CEO of the Council reported that the changes are hoped to improve patient safety and provide a humanistic learning environment for the resident doctors.