March 2, 2016 – Duty Hours


Anchor lead:  Does restricting how many hours a medical resident works improve safety? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Patient safety was cited some years ago when the federal government stepped in to regulate the number of hours medical residents could work.  Now a new study seems to show that very restrictive hours don’t change patient outcomes.  Robert Higgins, director of surgery at Johns Hopkins, says some kind of balance is desirable.

Higgins: I’ve been an advocate of duty hours restrictions because I do believe that in the days when I trained we spent days in the hospital.  That process may not have been ideal.  It did not take into account the impact of fatigue in my ability to perform my duties, the impact that that fatigue might have on patients I was taking care of.  We underestimated the importance of that and quite frankly it took some challenging circumstances to make people believe that there ought to be some restrictions about how many hours a trainee works.   :31

Higgins says patients can feel confident that all residents are overseen by a senior physician regardless of duty hours.  At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.