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A Change in The Workday for Medical Student-Residents

May 2, 2018

“Hospitals are, once again, allowed to schedule medical residents for full-day, 24-hour shifts. Unreasonably long workdays may result in increased medical mishaps from this doctors-in-training.”

The medical residency is a large component of the medical school. During a residency, a student is basically a “doctor-in-training” and handles patients similar to how a medical professional would. It’s a necessary step for any aspiring physician.

However, as a patient, wouldn’t you prefer to see a professional as opposed to a student-in-training? Of course. Especially when you consider the serious, life-long consequences that medical errors can have.

A Recent Change in Medical Residency Rules

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education recently approved 24-hour shifts for first-year residents. The 24-hour shift was the norm prior to 2012 when the shift length was restricted to 18-hours per day. The reason for the 2012 ruling was to reduce the number of medical errors by shortening the workday and giving students time to rest, eat, and recuperate.

Now, the shift is being extended back to the 24-hour limit. This may have dire consequences for hospital patients, as fatigue and overwork render student-residents mistake-prone and more likely to cut corners. Many people—patients and hospital staff alike—are concerned that these changes will increase the chances of medical negligence committed by student-residents.

A National Problem

Research out of Johns Hopkins University estimates that over 250,000 deaths in the U.S. occur because of medical mistakes. Common mistakes include misdiagnoses, surgical errors, delayed treatment, and pharmaceutical errors. If the professionals are prone to such life-threatening errors in the hospital, conceivably students are even more likely to make these same types of mistakes.

Surely, medical negligence/errors caused by student-residents are bound to increase with the reestablishment of the 24-hour workday. If a medical resident were to make a mistake that causes you pain, suffering, or anguish, you are entitled to pursue a medical malpractice claim.

Regardless of who commits a medical error, affected patients should know that there are rights and recourses afforded to them. Whether the mistake is committed by a student or a professional, patients are entitled to seek just compensation. Filing a malpractice claim could potentially recover damages for medical bills, lost wages, and pain & suffering.