A proposal regarding an increase in shift hours for new residents at hospitals in California and across the country is being pushed by a doctors’ training group. The change from 16 to 28 hours appear to be good in terms of preparing new residents for full time work. However, it could create dangerous situations for patients who need doctors to be alert during urgent times. There is prevailing evidence that has indicated that lengthy work shifts and exhaustion are primary factors of doctors’ errors as well as car accidents.
Some doctors have conflicting opinions about the proposed shift change. The need for extra staff seems to be more important in addition to the ability to work under intense pressure. The discussion over whether the plan should be approved or not has created tension among some doctors and consumer groups who think it is detrimental to those receiving care as well as the physicians.
Growing concerns also exist within the education sector particularly among college professors who clearly see the link between extended work hours and doctor errors. The new plan will not only extend hours but provide opportunities for residents to work where care is needed and may reduce the eight hour time off mandate when residents have not work more than 24 hours. As long as residents don’t exceed a weekly average of 80 hours, the proposed plan will not alter existing regulations. Provisions will also be made to ensure that residents have access to mental healthcare when needed.
When patients have been under the care of doctors who have been working long hours, their lives can be at risk. Medical errors such as failure to treat or lack of informed consent can occur. If it can be determined that fatigue was the cause of the error, an attorney might suggest the filing of a medical malpractice lawsuit against the practitioner and the facility.