Right now, rookie physicians are only allowed to work for 16 hours in a row. After they get through that first year, they may be allowed to take longer shifts, such as 24-hour ones.
However, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education just put forth a proposal saying that these first-year doctors should be allowed to work the 24-hour shifts, even with less than 12 months of experience. It hasn’t been voted on yet, but will be early next year. If it passes, the change will go into effect.
This, of course, has raised concerns about patient safety. These first-year doctors already have less experience and could make mistakes because of it. To add sleep deprivation to the mix — since they won’t be as used to these long days as more experienced doctors — could lead to errors and put patients at risk.
Those who back the proposal say that the goal isn’t to put more work on the rookie doctors, though. They simply want to help them with their education. These doctors are often assigned to work and learn under those with more experience. If this proposal goes through, they can actually work the same schedules and get real-world education that translates over into their profession properly when they are given full-time positions.
One expert noted that all other doctors, save for the interns who are learning in that first year, are allowed to take on the day-long shifts. Moreover, he mentioned that even they were allowed to do it until 2011.
It will be important for patients to keep an eye on this proposal. If it passes and there are more mistakes as a result, people need to know what rights they have to compensation.
Source: The Washington Post, “First-year doctors would be allowed to work 24-hour shifts under new rules,” Lenny Bernstein, Nov. 04, 2016