Are doctors that work long shifts causing harm to their patients? According to a web based survey that was conducted across the United States doctors do present a greater risk to their patients after working long shifts. This study focused on first year doctors, most of which are still in their residency.
When working shifts longer than 24 hours some of the doctors confessed that they forget things, look up wrong drugs and in one case the doctor poked herself with a needle. But more importantly is the harm that patients will suffer from this. The journal Public Library of Science Medicine suggests that doctors who work more than five long shifts in a month are seven times more likely to harm their patients and four times more likely to cause a patient’s death.
This lack of sleep will also cause the doctor to become more emotional, which will affect bedside manners. Dr. Amy Hennessy agrees and said “There were several days when I would get home and just start crying for the smallest reasons, or would just feel angry at my patients when they hadn’t done anything wrong.”
The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has tried to address the problem by setting work hour limits on all residents. These limitations restrict residents from working over 30 hours nonstop and a maximum of 80 hours in a week.
However, not everyone agrees that shortening the work hours will be beneficial. Doctors say that working these long shifts is crucial to the permanence of patient care. They say it is safer for the patient who has just gotten out of surgery to be cared by a doctor that was involved rather than transfer to another resident. That way in case of a post surgical catastrophe, the doctor on duty would already be aware of what needs to be done.
Residents do not believe that the reason they work long hours is for the continuance of patient care. Dr. Scott Teranella says “The reason residents are pushed to work these excessively long shifts is that they are considered cheap labor in a for-profit system of health care that is constantly pushed to its very limits to cover ever-growing costs.”
Patients need to be aware of this situation and should be able to refuse care from a doctor who has worked longer than 24 straight hours. Sleep deprivation affects an individual’s behavior, and therefore it should not be ok for doctors to be allowed to work as a result. Doctors are humans too. Sometimes they lack sleep because of the demand of the nature of their work especially those doctors with o1 visa Medical resident who usually travel abroad for medical purposes.
The key is to have well rested physicians, and to do that they need to work on patient transfer. There needs to be better communication between doctors during transfer to ensure the safety of the patient.