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Upcoming Change to Intern Shift Policies Could Drive Up Occurrence of Medical Mistakes

Medical MistakesAlmost everyone knows the importance of sleep. After all, it is discussed in relation to driving (driving sleep-deprived is just as bad, or worse, than driving intoxicated). Professors and teachers have always harped on getting enough sleep the night before a big exam. Even the issues surrounding sleep disorder issues, like falling asleep at work or while behind the wheel, remind everyone that the human body needs sleep to function properly. Yet doctors themselves tend to push the envelope.

Now, in an almost frightening turn of events, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical (ACGME) Evaluation is considering overturning their 16-hour work restriction on interns. This could potentially increase the risk of medical mistakes and further drive up the already concerning numbers. Further, the ripple-effect it may have on medical facilities may be further reaching than most would anticipate.

Why the Policy may Change

Back in 2008, the Institute of Medicine published the results of an intensive, year-long review on the effects of shifts that met or exceeded 16 hours on first-year doctors (also known as resident doctors). The following outlines their conclusions:

  • Serious medical errors increased by 36 percent,
  • Diagnostic errors were 5.6 times more common,
  • Accidental needle sticks increased by 72 percent, and
  • Car accidents while returning home from work increased by 168 percent.

Upon the release of these findings, the ACGME implemented a policy that restricted the amount of consecutive hours an intern could work to no more than 16 hours. After that, they had to rest before taking on another shift. Then a new study came out - a large but seriously flawed one, in which it was determined that two 28-hour shifts per week did not increase the incidence of mistake, error, or injury among the doctors, or their patients. Now the ACGME is planning to reverse the policy.

A Change That America Cannot Afford

Medical errors are already the third-leading cause of death in the country, and one of the biggest contributing factors to preventable injury. Quite simply, America cannot afford to have the shift restriction policy reversed; it stands to cost medical patients and their families far too much. Thankfully, the opposition coming from numerous sources may halt the possible reversal. If it does pass, however, patients will need to be even more diligent in their search for a doctor and may need to be more aggressive if they or someone they love is injured.

At Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, LLP, we stand up for the best interests and rights of medical malpractice victims. Dedicated, experienced, and prepared to fight for you, our San Jose medical malpractice attorneys will aggressively pursue the compensation that you and your family deserve. Schedule your consultation by calling (408) 289-1417 today.

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