1st-Year Doctors Can Now Work 28 Hours Without a Break

Rule change eliminates 16-hour cap on shifts for 1st-year residents
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 4, 2017 6:58 PM CDT

(Newser) – And you thought your workday was long. Six years after a rule change limited first-year medical residents from working shifts longer than 16 hours, the rule has been changed back, KQED reports. According to NPR, as of July, first-year doctors could once again work shifts lasting up to 28 hours without a break. Shifts for first-year residents were cut to 16 hours by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education in 2011 after studies showed that human performance starts to decline and medical errors go up after 16 hours. But the ACGME reversed its decision in March, arguing the shorter shifts didn't improve patient outcomes and created a new set of problems.

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Veteran doctors argued the shorter shifts made first-year residents focus on handing off patients rather than seeing them through treatment, prevented residents from observing treatments and surgeries from beginning to end, and gave them less time to teach residents. One doctor tells Forbes that patients want to know "you are the doctor taking care of them" and won't be replaced by someone else. But not everyone wanted to see the return of longer shifts, which was opposed by both resident and patient groups. The director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group accuses the ACGME of letting "their misguided wishes trump public health." And one first-year resident says veteran doctors only want 28-hour shifts because they feel that "I went through it, so therefore you have to." (Swedish city's six-hour workday didn't work.)

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