“Doc, Are You Awake?”—Sleep-Deprived Doctors in Kentucky

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Most of us in Kentucky have had to carry on with our daily lives despite having gotten far less sleep than we needed. No doubt, it affects our mood, our productivity, and our health—especially if sleep deprivation continues over a number of nights. If you’re a waiter, you might be snippy with your customer. If you’re a writer, you might not be able to string together a few sentences coherently, let alone write something that anyone would like to read. 

If you’re a doctor, you could kill someone.

Long Hours Define the Profession

The number of hours worked by doctors at various stages of their education and practice varies widely, from 35 to 120 hours a week; the average is 60 to 90 hours weekly. Surveys have shown that interns work longer hours than residents, and surgical subspecialists work the most hours. 

Although many people believe that the hours put in by residents should be cut, some disagree, maintaining that the long hours

  • give residents an invaluable educational opportunity;
  • enable residents to see the evolution of disease;
  • provide continuity of patient care;
  • afford residents the time they need to learn the profession;
  • build confidence; and
  • prepare residents for the rigorous demands of a medical practice. 

The characteristic long hours put in by residents also save money for teaching hospitals, not to mention that the taxing schedule is seen as the residents “paying their dues.”

The Down Side of Sleep Deprivation

Besides affecting doctors’ mood and health, fatigue is suspected to play a part in medical errors. The report To Err Is Human by the Institute of Medicine revealed that 44,000 to 98,000 deaths each year are caused by medical errors. Although no clear evidence exists to prove how many of these deaths are caused by doctor fatigue, the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) avers that “since fatigue affects performance and decision-making processes, it is a likely contributor.” 

NCBI admonishes health care workers to look at going to work sleep deprived the same as going to work under the influence of alcohol. Studies show that a two-hour sleep loss is the same as having a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.045 percent, and a four-hour sleep loss is the same as having a BAC of 0.095 percent; Kentucky law considers a BAC of 0.08 percent to be legally drunk. 

We can understand and sympathize with doctors who are sleep deprived; the fact remains that their physical and mental state can adversely affect their patients. If someone you love has died or suffered brain injury as a result of medical malpractice, contact Gray and White Law right away. Call us at 502-210-8942 or toll free at 888-450-4456 to set up a FREE, no-obligation consultation with one of our Louisville medical malpractice lawyers