First-year medical residents can now work longer hours. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, the body that sets rules for training new doctors, announced on Friday that it will be revising the current 16-hour maximum on shifts for doctors who have just graduated from medical school.
As of July 1, first-year residents, or interns, will be allowed to work for 24 hours without breaks, and can reach up to 28 hours should supervising doctors require it, NPR reports.
The ACGME argues that the current rule, which was implemented in 2011, did not bring about efficient results, and led to many problems instead. The ACGME says, “The Task Force [review panel] has determined that the hypothesized benefits associated with the changes made to first-year resident scheduled hours in 2011 have not been realized and the disruption of team-based care and supervisory systems has had a significant negative impact on the professional education of the first-year resident, and effectiveness of care delivery of the team as a whole.”
Task Force member Dr. Anai Kothari says that the cap would sometimes prevent doctors from finishing a treatment or surgery from start to end. Kothari explains that patients want to be reassured that “you are the doctor taking care of them.” He adds,
The long shifts are infrequent, but they are important when needed.
The group says that the new rules are based on “over 4,200 hours formulating the new requirements, including systematically reviewing over 1,000 published articles and extensive input from all stakeholders.”
The move has been met with plenty of opposition from groups who say allowing doctors to walk longer hours without sleep poses more dangers than not. Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, says, “Study after study shows that sleep-deprived resident physicians are a danger to themselves, their patients and the public. It’s disheartening to see the ACGME cave to pressure from organized medicine and let their misguided wishes trump public health.”
The American Medical Student Association and the Committee of Interns and Residents also protest the change, saying that the longer shifts are encouraging a “patriarchal hazing system,” according to Samantha Harrington, an intern.
The ACGME acknowledges the opinions raised by opposing groups, but reminds doctors that “24 hours is a ceiling, not a floor.”