Friday, April 1, 2011

Reduced work hours for doctors

In both Europe and the US, there has been a push to reduce the hours worked by doctors. This has been based on the belief that tired doctors make more mistakes. An article in this weeks BMJ points out that to date there is no evidence that these measures have brought about an improvement in safety. Why should this be? There are many possible explanations, but in my view, these reductions in working hours have been implemented without taking a fundamental look at how doctors work. in other words, a dramatic change in work hours should have been accompanied by a radical restructuring of shifts, handovers, continuity and so on. It is likely that this has not occured. The other problem is that junior doctors work hour and patterns evolved to match those of senior physicians. The work patterns of these senior doctors also needs to be considered and modified.

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