Limiting Medical Intern Days May Endanger Patients

Posted on Apr 09, 2013

In 2011, the number of consecutive hours a medical intern could work during a hospital shift was lowered to 16. One of the reasons for the change was to prevent medical mistakes made by tired interns. However, the change may have increased a different type of medical malpractice problem, according to recent information published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

According to one study published in JAMA, patients may be at increased risk of medical error because the 16-hour work shift means that there are more patient hand-offs and more opportunity for miscommunications and errors. Additionally, those who looked at whether the changes were working or not noted that the shorter work shift did not result in significantly more sleep for the interns whom they interviewed. Furthermore, the education of some interns may be suffering, and some interns may be expected to do more in a shorter amount of time, all of which could potentially lead to patient harm, according to researchers.

A solution to this problem has been suggested by those who gathered the information. Specifically, they suggest that teaching hospitals could fill more resident positions to reduce resident workload, and they could shift some of the workload to non-resident providers.

A second study that also appeared in JAMA Internal Medicine was conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan. That study found that the number of medical errors may have increased by as much as 15-20% as result of the 2011 change.

Our Louisville medical malpractice lawyers extend their best wishes for a fast and complete recovery to anyone who has recently been hurt by a medical error in a Kentucky hospital.

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Matthew L. White
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Founder & Partner of Louisville Personal Injury Law Firm Gray & White Law