Resident work hours is a buzz phrase used in medical education. About two years following the completion of my residency, there were new rules implemented to try to limit the hours worked my interns/residents. (image credit)
The theory behind this was that interns/residents would not be as tired and would make less mistakes. And, less mistakes would mean less patient deaths (less mortality).
Data just published from the University of Pennsylvania state that since the implementation of resident work hours, mortality rates have not decreased as expected. (WebMD)
The findings "reinforce the impression that there is still not clear evidence for an effect of duty hour reforms on [patient] mortality," suggests an editorial in The Journal of the American Medical Association by David O. Meltzer, MD, PhD, and Vineet M. Arora, MD, of the University of Chicago.Now, I wouldn't consider myself "old school," but (cue old guy accent) when I was in residency, we didn't have these resident work hour rules. We were on duty until the work was done.
I know that I probably have talked about this before on the blog, but working all those hours during residency really got me ready for my practice now. To be honest, I think I'm working more hours now than I did in residency.
Not only did I learn about clinical issues and diseases in residency, I learned how to try to balance life at work and life at home. I learned how to try to function on less hours of sleep. And, most important, I learned my limitations when I was feeling fatigued.
I could be wrong, but I think these residents being trained today are being sheltered too much and not getting a true taste of what life will be following residency. When they get in the real world, they're going to learn very quickly that there are no work hour rules.
I feel that the American health care system will not feel the real impact of these resident work hour changes for many years. What kind of American medical workforce will have been created with these rules in place? I guess we'll just have to see.