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Are shorter hospital shifts safer shifts? Part 1

If you had more hours outside of work, what would you do with them? Schedule changes for medical interns have been made various times in the past, with the hope being that the residents would rest while outside of hospital walls. Shorter shifts would mean more rest and less fatigue among medical professionals, right?

According to recent data to be published in JAMA, the most recent reduction in shift hours for hospital interns has not resulted in improved patient safety. Researchers suggest that there might be various factors that have kept shift changes from achieving the safety improvements that the field hoped to see.

Less training

Interns are not working as many hours within a given period and, therefore, are getting in less learning time than interns in the past. They have to work more shifts in order to catch up to the amount of hours in training that past shift schedules allowed.

More patient handoffs

Lack of sleep is not the only threat to patient safety. Medical professionals also indicate that patient handoffs create opportunity for medical errors. With residents working fewer hours at a time, their patients will be treated by various medical professionals during their stays. That means that patient files will get into the hands of different people. Communication via patient files isn't always as clear as it should be.

These are just a couple of the reasons why researchers worry about the shift hour changes among hospital residents in the U.S. An upcoming post will discuss further theories regarding the reported increase in medical errors since the regulation change.

Visit our Harrisburg medical malpractice lawyer page to learn about different types of cases involving negligence on behalf of a medical professional and/or facility.

Source: Time, "Fewer Hours for Doctors in Training Leading to More Mistakes," Alexandra Sifferlin, March 26, 2013

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