Part 1: Is shift in hours enough to prevent medical errors?

A recent New York Times piece gives a thorough background of the history of medical intern training. It is an issue within the medical field that has garnered much debate regarding medical malpractice over the years. The debate has inspired a new change for the interns this year.

As new interns began their residencies this year, they no longer had to work a grueling 30-hour shift like those who came before them. It’s a big, controversial change in the field, but some safety advocates worry whether that change alone will be enough to decrease the number of medical errors made in the country.

One man who is behind the effort to combat medical mistakes and unsafe practices within the country’s medical facilities is Christopher Landrigan. He is an associate professor at Harvard and has been a diligent champion for decreasing the hours that first-year interns are allowed to work.

As a result of his efforts and the efforts of other researchers, safety advocates and medical professionals, this year’s new batch of interns can expect to work 16-hour shifts at the longest. Those behind the nationwide rule believe that fatigue among interns has resulted in dangerous and sometimes deadly errors in the past; therefore, this new change will help foster safer medical facilities and prevent medical malpractice claims.

Safer and more efficient hospitals is the ideal outcome of the shortened work shift for new interns, but there are concerns that the one change won’t effect the needed improvement within the system unless it is complemented by further changes. Check back soon to read the next post, wherein we will discuss the other suggested safety changes.


The New York Times: “The Phantom Menace of Sleep-Deprived Doctors,” Darshak Sanghavi, Aug. 5, 2011

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