Prior to the revisions that took place, residents were not permitted to work longer than 16 hours in one shift. Beginning in just a few months, residents in certain specialties may find that they are on shift for 24 hours and expected to stay even longer to type up and file reports.
First-year residents will work schedules that are closely aligned with other residents and mentors. Not only are first-years being asked to work for 24 hours, they may be asked to work 80 hours in a single week – or more. The 80 hours per week rule is averaged over four weeks. This means that, realistically, a first-year resident could work more than 80 hours one week and fewer the next.
While medical professionals believe that these long shifts are necessary for learning, opponents of the rule say that it is putting the public in danger. Exhausted residents being put in charge of patient care are apt to make mistakes. Whether they are supervised properly could mean the different in a patient being injured or worse.
Not only is the patient at risk, but so is the resident, some say. Mental health is of great concern when a person is deprived of sleep. Physical exhaustion can lead to physical illness. What the effects of the new rule will be remain to be seen.
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