Report: Resident doctors may need more sleep

A woman in bed with sleeping pills nearby.

JEREMY HOBSON: Starting next month new doctors-in-training won't be allowed to work more than 16 hours straight without a break for sleep. The current max is 30 hours. Some doctors, though, say even these new rules don't go far enough.

From the Marketplace Education Desk at WYPR in Baltimore, Amy Scott reports.

AMY SCOTT: In an article out today in the journal Nature and Science of Sleep, a group of doctors says hospitals should limit all residents to 12-16 hours shifts with a minimum of 10 hours between shifts. Under the new rules, after their first year residents will still be allowed to work up to 28 hours at a stretch with just 8 hours in between.

Charles Czeisler teaches sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School. He says a person who's worked that long is as impaired as someone who's legally drunk.

CHARLES CZEISLER: And we find that one out of five resident physicians admit to making a sleep-related mistake that has actually injured a patient. And one out of 20 admits to making a sleep-related mistake that has resulted in the death of a patient.

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education wrote the new work rules. The Council says it reduced hours for first year residents because they're the least-experienced, most vulnerable doctors in training. But the group says studies have shown that reducing hours doesn't necessarily reduce medical errors or lead to more sleep.

I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.


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