Rookie Doctors Are Now Able to Work 24-Hour Shifts

young female resident smiling

New work regulations indicate that rookie doctors will soon be able to work 24-hour shifts. These rules will take effect this summer. Supporters of the new law stated that this would improve training for newcomers. A Chicago-based team which sets work standards for graduates of the US medical school has decided to eliminate 16-hour shifts for first-year residents.

On March 10, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education announced their initiative as being part of revisions that encompass reinstating the longer limit for rookies. The same limit of hours is allowed for advanced residents. The new rules re-iterate the 80-hour limit per week for residents at all levels. Dr. Anai Kothari is a third-year resident on a council panel which recommended the changes.

He stated that he only sometimes works 24-hour shifts.  All the extra hours give him enough time to finish up with his patients instead of going home at the end of his regular shift, in the middle of a case. He works at Loyola University Medical Center near Chicago.

Dr. Samantha Harrington, who is a first-year resident, believes that working for so many hours might endanger patients’ state of health and residents’ safety. They would be too tired to think clearly and a treat a patient right. Even the slightest mistake at first can turn into a dangerous one which could jeopardize the life of a patient.

Harrington noted that her 14-hour shifts at Cambridge Hospital located near Boston already mean too much. It is difficult for her to stay awake for so long and be 100% focused on all medical cases because the life of your patients depends on your decisions. It is even harder to stay awake when driving home from work.

She claims that these laborious hours are based on a patriarchal system in which other physicians which worked there longer argue that if they managed to do it when they were residents than residents nowadays should be able to do it too. Harrington is also a member of the Committee of Interns and Residents. This union organization opposes the new regulations which will soon be adopted.

Another union group called the American Medical Student Assn believes that the new changes will not be beneficial. Dr. Kelly Thilbert, the president of this group, believes that the 16-hour shift is a lot safer for all residents.

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About Waleed Javed

  • Sandy Rah

    Complaints by us older docs (I am 49) that “we worked longer hours, so you should too” are irrelevant. The truth is that the IOM (Institute of Medicine) has taken a long hard look at over 10 years of data since residency work hours were reduced and has concluded that there are more lapses during “transitions of care” and some loss in learning by not following really really sick patients for 24 hours straight to see “live” how they respond to active treatment in the ICU and ER–>floor transition, for example.

    We worked 100-110 hours per week and maybe that was too long. THUS, the IOM and the ACGME are still recommending maintaining the reduced 80 hours/week that currently exists. The 24 hour shifts are fine if the doc goes home and sleeps afterwards, instead of looking to “moonlight” or do other things that there isn’t time for in residency training.