Sleep Deprivation of Doctors in American Medical System

If you’re exhausted after working an eight-hour day, think about how doctors in a hospital must feel. Many are required to work 30-hour shifts—that’s more than a day straight of work. Many work 100 or more hours in the course of a week. With only a few hours of sleep in between shifts, doctors are opening themselves up to medical malpractice lawsuits.

For medical residents, the number of consecutive hours they can work is currently set at 16—still twice the amount of hours in a normal workday. However, there is talk of bumping up that number to 28 consecutive hours. But why? The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) finds that number acceptable based on new evidence and research.

It all comes down to dedication. Doctors feel like when they save lives by being sleep-deprived and overworked, they can be a hero. But it doesn’t always end up that way. In fact, the opposite is often true.

Effects of Lack of Sleep

Being overly tired is almost the same as being drunk. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, those who get only five or six hours of sleep—the standard for doctors—are twice as likely to get in a car accident than those who get at least seven hours of sleep. Doctors are not immune to these effects, even though they are held to high standards.

Sleep deprivation is health hazard that has short-term and long-term effects. Doctors can suffer from memory loss and decreased judgment. Long-term effects include heart disease, obesity, diabetes and depression.

Drowsiness can lead to various health effects for not just doctors but their patients as well. Sleep is extremely important for the human body, and when these sleep cycles are messed up, the effects can be harmful—even deadly. Interns are also exposed to continual fatigue. One 18-year-old woman died after being awake for 24 hours straight.

What the ACGME Says

Changes definitely have to be made, but it can be impractical to do so. In an inpatient environment, patients are in need 24/7. Doctors must coordinate multidisciplinary teams. Doctors are feeling more and more stress as they see more patients spend more time doing paperwork.

The ACGME is committed to physician well-being. The organization claims that residents have support available to them to deal with the effects of exhaustion. For example, patient care can be transitioned to other doctors when a resident is too tired. There is also a requirement that hospitals must provide transportation options and sleep facilities for fatigued residents.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer

It’s important that doctors get adequate rest, as fatigue among doctors often leads to medical malpractice. If you were a victim, make sure you understand your legal rights.

If you suffered injuries due to negligence from a member of medical staff, the team at Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum Bluestein, LLP is here to help you with your case. Our experienced medical malpractice lawyers will aggressively fight for your legal rights. Contact our team at (305) 371-2692 or visit us online.