Thursday, October 21, 2010

Intern work hours

Maybe some people wonder why I don't spill my beans about the medical profession the way that I do about politics. Ultimately it comes down to what is a career and what is a hobby. Politics / economics / et cetera is a hobby for me, and I'm not making a career in it. Thus I feel no inhibitions whatsoever (as is probably painfully obvious) and say pretty much whatever I feel like. If I was currently pursuing a political career, you can bet that this blog wouldn't exist. When it comes to medicine, since I am such an amateur and anyway am attempting to build a career, input (I need to learn a LOT) is far more important than output (nobody in the medical profession cares about my opinion).

I will comment about the new law regarding intern work hours, however. Previous restrictions implemented in 2003 or so limited residents to an 80 hour work week. In the last few weeks, a new law was passed that limits interns to a 16 hour shift only.

My perception on the issue is this: certainly, there should be reasonable limits to how much residents work. I don't care what anyone tells me, I don't think it is sane or reasonable to expect a resident to regularly work over 120 hours per week. Although I do know those crazy times come and go periodically; even as a medical student I clocked approximately 110 hours one week (it was a big funny joke at the time, but would get old if continued for 5 years). On the other hand, residents should not be limited too much; in Europe they can't even work over 40 hours. Training will certainly be inhibited.

I do think the 80 hour week is a reasonable goal. I don't like the new law, limiting us to 16 hour shifts though. This will compromise continuity of care, which is important for learning. Also, working 16 hours straight is easy. I'm just hitting my stride at 16 hours. Working 24-30 hours straight isn't really hard either, even when not used to it. So I think the 16 hour limit was misguided. That really doesn't make anyone's life better.

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