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Residency requirements may lead to mistakes due to exhaustion

If you heard that your doctor had been on shift for 24 hours, would you trust his or her actions? That's a concern that many patients and medical personnel alike are bringing up. It's an assumption that these individuals should be able to work long hours without stopping, but how can they get by without the seven to nine hours of sleep that most people require to function at their best?

The people who suffer most in the medical world are medical residents. They learn their profession under the watchful eyes of supervising doctors. They spend around three years in residency, but they also work shifts of up to 30 hours at a time.

How can these sleep-deprived residents function at all? Once in a while, something happens to show that they aren't functioning to the best of their abilities. For instance, in a 1984 case, an 18-year-old student died after a fatigued intern treated her. Still, the 30-hour day is the norm.

Currently, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education is reviewing residency work-hour limits. Whether or not the hours change in the future does come down to the council's suggestions in many cases, but it doesn't seem that they'll be changing anytime soon. They may need to, though, with studies showing that interns on these long, 30-hour shifts are 36 percent more likely to make serious medical errors than those on 16-hour shifts.

Our website has more information about medical malpractice and what you can do if a medical resident causes you injuries due to a lack of sleep or time off. You shouldn't suffer because of the long hours these residents are forced to work.

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