The 80 Hour Work Week Is Only The Beginning

Opinion2.jpgFor those of you who don’t know. The 80 hour work week is a relatively new limitation for resident physicians in training. This rule was put into effect a few years ago to prevent sleep deprivation among physicians in training. The rule was meant to curtail medical errors such as incorrect prescriptions, wrong procedures, or any time of malpractice that is more likely to occur when a physician does not have enough sleep.

Some of us trained in medicine at a time when there were no work hour restrictions. 100 plus hour work weeks were a norm. Taking call every night or every other night was standard. It was felt that continuous care of patients would train the physician in continuous medicine. Residency programs produced fatigued but well trained physicians.

Fast-forward to today and the climate for medical education has changed. Students now seek medical careers for lifestyle considerations and good hours. Anesthesiology, Emergency Medicine, Dermatology, Plastic Surgery – those are the popular specialties with perceived good hours and a good lifestyle.

Among the halls of hospitals, many old school physicians still grumble and jokingly mention that residents must go home or they will “violate” work hour restrictions.

I do feel for these doctors. After all, they had brutal residency training programs and now the current generation of physician residents appear to them must “softer”. Unfortunately, the 80 hour work week is only the beginning of equalization of medicine compared to other specialties. Sexual harassment and inappropriate general conduct are the next frontiers of medicine that will be cracked down on. Pretty soon, attendings won’t be able to yell at residents and call them names without getting written up for abusive behavior. The 360 degree evaluation that residents receive will go all the way to the top of the food chain.

It is only a matter of time that the medical workplace will become regulated to ensure that all are treated equally and fairly.

  • Zach

    Is this a good thing? I understand the need for equal human rights and all that jazz, but a part of me is saying “this is a specialty that holds other’s lives in hand”, so they should be under pressure to be the best possible through whatever means necessary.

    For instance, I can understand how equal human rights kinda go out the window for those enlisted in the military. Individual thinking, satisfactory amount of sleep, etc are things that might get you (or your friend) killed. The harsh treatment you get in the military is precisely there to keep you from dieing. If they treated you with puppies and kisses instead, I would bet the military would be very short-lived and unsuccessful.

    Similarly, should doctors be in an environment that forces them to survive or get “killed”? Personally, if my resident screws up and kills/injures someone, I want them yelled at so they get the idea of the seriousness. Getting hammered with guilt and “inappropriate conduct” might keep them from making the mistake again.

    Will they still be great doctors if they aren’t in a harsh environment? I’m not a doctor, so I really have no idea. What are your thoughts?

  • Dr Old School

    you sound like a clip board carrying nurse- or an er “doctor”

  • Zach

    Me? I’m an undergrad studying biology =P

  • 80hourworkweekisjokeanyway

    So basically you have no clue, and you’re wasting our time with your worthless opinion. Shut your crapper of a mouth and get back to studying biology like the loser with too much free time that you are. Then learn how to spell, dumbass.

    …….How’s that feel? Does it inspire you to work harder?

  • Anonymous

    I love the retort from “80hourworkweekisjokeanyway.” A doctor that is making a high number of mistakes is not a very effective doctor. I have a lot of respect for the doctors that had to endure the 100 hours per week during their residencies. But by setting these limitations on a resident’s work week, they still spend a significant amount of time training without suffering from serious sleep deprivation.

  • Pingback: Female Physicians Responsible for Shortage of Doctors? | Brain Blogger()

  • Sounds like a lot of uninformed “opinions” up there. I believe in either getting the facts first or asking questions to learn the facts. The new researches tell us that ALL humans need 8 hours sleep daily; the damage may take years to show, but definitely affects one’s health. An occasional miss will not hurt, but for doctors to do this on a near daily basis is extremely dangerous…both for the patient and the doctor. Doctors are people first. It is absolutely time that they regulate the way they are treated–both for the sake of of their patients, as well as for their own health and well being. As for the comments about the military, brutality doesn’t make people strong, it just builds ANGER. That’s why a lot of soldiers end up turning on friendly fire. So let’s not compare doctors with the military.


Dr. JC is a medical doctor who has a passion for health promotion and education.

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