One of the things that is hard to understand about the medical field is why residents and new doctors are forced to work such long and grueling shifts. Besides seeming like a very inhumane practice, it is also risky; a new study has found that surgeons-in-training are much more likely to make significant errors because they are so tired from their difficult schedules. That's should be a concern to anyone in New Jersey because a "significant error" means the kind of mistake, like a surgical error, that can leave a patient badly harmed.
The study found that surgical residents at the two hospitals examined averaged just five-and-a-half hours of sleep a night. That meant they were so tired on the job that their impaired cognition and motor skills were equivalent to that of a legally drunk person.
What's of more concern is that the study suggests that recently enacted regulations meant to make sure new doctors aren't so overworked aren't really working. Those regulations were enacted while the study was underway and the authors said they didn't really see any difference before or after. One study author said to him, that means the regulations are not enough and that the industry needs to institute some changes of its own.
We don't mean to be alarmist, but the study seems to suggest that there is not too much a patient can do to protect him or herself against an overtired surgeon. Although everyone would prefer to go unharmed in the first place, it may be some consolation to know that if you are ever hurt as the result of a surgical error, a medical malpractice attorney can help determine whether you have recourse to be compensated for the wrong done to them.
Source: Reuters, "Tired surgical residents may up error risk: study," Andrew M. Seaman, May 21, 2012
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