Medical residents' on-the-job fatigue contributes to accidents and medical errors, jeopardizing patient safety, so the work schedules of these doctors-in-training should be restricted to reduce the risk of mishaps, according to a report released Tuesday by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.
The report Resident Duty Hours: Enhancing Sleep, Supervision, and Safety, authored by a committee of medical and scientific experts, examines the work hours of medical residents and the resulting impact on their safety as well as the safety of their patients. An online summary of the report states that "revisions to medical residents' workloads and duty hours are necessary to better protect patients against fatigue-related errors and to enhance the learning environment for doctors in training." Specific recommendations include allowing residents to work no more than 16 hours straight, increasing the amount of mandatory off days for residents, and restricting their "moonlighting" work time.
According to a News Release from the National Academies, announcing the release of the report, the committee "also called for greater supervision of residents by experienced physicians, limits on patient caseloads based on residents' levels of experience and specialty, and overlap in schedules during shift changes to reduce the chances for error during the handover of patients from one doctor to another."