Sep. 27, 2009 —
A study of clinical errors made by resident physicians in a teaching hospital reveals that the more tired they are the more mistakes they make. The study published in the International Journal of Behavioural and Healthcare Research puts figures to this seemingly obvious conclusion and shows that fewer errors are made if clinical practices are standardised. The research could help promote the case for improved working conditions for junior doctors in order to improve patient outcomes.
Zvi Stern of the Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem, Israel, and colleagues report that resident physicians, colloquially known as "residents" are the frontline providers of the majority of in-patient medical care in teaching hospitals. The work is stressful, has often overwhelming responsibilities, and involves working long hours with little opportunity for adequate sleep and recuperation. Previous research has shown that sleep deprivation due to long working hours is a major factor in clinical errors made by residents.
The Harvard Work Hours, Health and Safety Study presented the most rigorous proof that fatigue causes medical errors and led to the US Accreditation Council for graduate medical education limiting residents' working hours. However, this has been criticised more recently in light of the fact that even with reduced hours errors made by residents remain a major problem in many teaching hospitals.