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Patients could suffer as a result of residents working fewer hours

Mar 26, 2013 | Doctor Errors

Dealing with multiple doctors during a visit to the hospital can be frustrating for patients and their family, especially when someone is suffering from a serious health condition. Seeing a new face emerge from behind a curtain can be unnerving and disheartening.

Researchers have also found that more patient handoffs can lead to errors. Unfortunately, more patient handoffs are happening because the hours that medical residents are allowed to work have been reduced.

In 2011, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education cut the number of hours that interns are allowed to work nearly in half from 30 hours to 16 hours. The reduction was intended to decrease instances of patient harm by keeping sleepy doctors out of patients’ rooms.

The shorter shifts, however, have not reduced medical errors. In fact, it appears that even more errors are occurring.

In addition to more patient handoffs, it appears that the reduced hours have led to a decrease in training opportunities. Despite the changes, residents do not appear to be getting more sleep, and many of them report having problems with depression.

Patients go to the hospital to get better. Suffering even more as a result of a medical error can be discouraging and frustrating. Unfortunately, some patients may suffer serious complications. In some instances, those complications can cause permanent damage and even death.

No one should have to experience complications as a result of a medical mistake. However, when mistakes do occur, patients may be able to hold medical providers responsible through a civil lawsuit.

Source: USA Today, "Studies: Residents make more errors on shorter shifts," Janice Lloyd, March 25, 2013

•· Our firm works with patients who have suffered complications as a result of a medical mistake. Please visit our New York City surgical mistakes page for more information.