New Shift Limits For Interns Did Not Decrease The Possibility of Hospital Errors
Little Rock, AR (Law Firm Newswire) June 5, 2013 – Everyone knows that interns are run off their feet and exhausted, opening the door to medical malpractice.
“Anyone who has been in hospital is likely familiar with the ever present newest batch of interns, run ragged from long hours and little, if no sleep. It’s almost an American tradition; a tradition the American College of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) wants to change. They’ve set a 16-hour limit for shifts for first year residents, to increase patient safety and preserve the well-being of the interns,” said Michael Smith, an Arkansas injury lawyer and Arkansas accident lawyer, practicing personal injury law in Arkansas.
The change in hours is in direct response to the ACGME also issuing guidelines, possibly honored more in the breach than in practice, that residents should work no longer than 80-hours per week, which should be separated by at least 8-hours of down time. While this may sound like heaven to an intern struggling to stay awake and make the right medical decisions for a patient, it seems that research into the change reveals another picture entirely.
The University of Michigan conducted a study closely examining the changes. They discovered residents are not getting any more sleep than before, and are still just as depressed with their situation, even with the change. “While that may well be expected,” suggested Smith, “the other disturbing fact is that with the new hours, more interns were worried about making a serious hospital error. In fact, 23 percent were concerned enough to express their fears to researchers. This is up from 19.9 percent of recent medical graduates who interned between 2009 and 2010.”
Why would shorter hours have the potential to cause more hospital errors? It seems that an intern’s compressed work week, in which they cram more work into less hours, can backfire, opening the doors for medical malpractice. In addition, there are a higher number of patient hand-offs and an inability to follow patients when it is most needed. “When the numbers are considered, it is relatively clear that shortening an intern’s shift is not the answer to ensuring their health and patient safety. Reducing their workload is a better solution,” Smith pointed out.
A lighter workload has been shown, in other studies, to reduce the length of time a patient stays in hospital, cuts down on the number of re-admissions within 30-days and results in fewer admissions to the ICU —- all because the residents had a lighter workload which translated to them being able to spend more time with their patients and offer them better, more focused care.
In the final analysis, mistakes will be made no matter how long an intern or doctor does or does not work. It is human to err and nowhere does that hit home more starkly than in a medical setting. “If you feel you have been the victim of a hospital error, it is important that you speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer. You need to have your case evaluated and find out what your legal rights are,” added Smith.
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