The steep price of restricting resident work-hours

It seems inevitable that restricting resident work-hours will soon lead to longer residencies.

An excellent piece in Slate details the price patients will have to pay, as doctors receive less experience. If “the mistakes of drowsy doctors are merely replaced by the mistakes of ill-trained doctors,” then the recommendations would have served no purpose.

Another point is that all resident specialties are lumped under the same recommendation. Surgery for instance, requires long hours to become technically proficient. If for some reason an operation lasts past a resident’s 16-hour threshold, “residents may someday soon have to prepare themselves to halt an operation and announce that it’s nap time.” There needs to be flexibility to best suit a specialty’s individual needs.

Finally, are hospitals prepared to pay the price as residents, their main source of cheap labor, are mandated to go home and be replaced by costly attending physicians and mid-level providers?

The only way around the depreciation of medical training and a sensitivity towards resident fatigue will be increasing the number of training years.

Expect to see that proposal soon.