It looks like the dreaded days-long medical residency shifts could be a thing of the past. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has proposed new guidelines for residency programs amid concerns that overtired residents were making unnecessary mistakes and harming their patients. The ACGME had previously limited resident hours from up to 120 hours a week to a more reasonable 80 hours a week in 2003.
The new guidelines—which, pending approval, will go into effect in July 2011—advise that first-year residents be treated differently than those with more experience. Therefore, first-years should be limited to 16-hour shifts, and those in the second year and up should not work continuously for more than 24 hours. The guidelines also emphasize direct supervision of newer residents by more experienced ones. Plus, the ACGME will work harder to enforce these requirements by conducting annual on-site visits of each institution, and those programs not complying could lose accreditation.
The new guidelines have been received with mixed reactions, with some feeling the requirements don’t go far enough to protect patient safety, and others finding issue with the timing of the new shift limitations. In any case, in compliance with the new rules, many hospitals will need to hire additional medical staff and could face logistical and financial challenges.
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