So, you go to the nearest emergency room with what you think might be food poisoning, but you’re not sure-it’s coming on strong. There, you find out the doctor in charge of your case-and taking your blood- has been working for 28 hours straight.
It’s a relief to know that this scenario currently can’t happen in the U.S. The current rules limit first-year residents to working no more than 16 hours straight, without a break, but this scene of longer hours could soon be a reality.
A new study is looking at the implications of changing residents’ work schedules to allow them to work 30 hours straight without a break.
Researchers are currently looking at whether or not more mistakes happen when residents work longer schedules, and whether or not they learn more on shifts that can be as long as 30 hours.
I don’t know- I’m not a super-human or a doctor, so I can’t say for sure what the study will turn up. Some doctors and residents are pretty amazing people.
But hasn’t the medical world already established that going without sleep is akin to walking around drunk?
The National Center for Biotechnology Information has a scholarly article entitled,
“Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication”, and even Forbes thinks not sleeping enough impairs judgement.
The Mayo Clinic recommends adults get 7-8 hours of sleep in each 24 hour period, and states that,
“although some people claim to feel rested on just a few hours of sleep a night, research shows that people who sleep so little over many nights don’t perform as well on complex mental tasks as do people who get closer to seven hours of sleep a night. Studies among adults also show that getting less or much more than seven hours of sleep a night is associated with a higher mortality rate.”
So, why put doctors, and above all, ultimately patients, in jeopardy?
The year-long study on first-year residents’ schedules started in July, and will end next summer.
Personally, I think if the doctor doesn’t feel comfortable telling me how long they’ve been awake without a break, I’d rather not be under their care.
What do you think?