Doctors' Hours

Compromised performance among health care workers can jeopardize patients' lives. The medical profession is notorious for having its doctors in training work very long hours. In the case of a young woman who died 8 hours after being admitted to the emergency room, the intern and resident had each been on duty for 18 hours before treating her. The grand jury examining the case determined that the number of hours the residents and interns were required to work contributed to her death. No criminal indictments were handed down in this case [3], and extremely long shifts and chronic overwork are still expected of doctors in training.

Some improvements may be on the way in the medical profession as well. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), which sets standards for medical residency training programs, has begun within the past few years to introduce new standards for residents' work hours [3].