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Advantages of Shorter Resident Shifts Found Lacking

Shorter medical resident duty hours may be worse for patients and only slightly better for residents

MONDAY, Feb. 9, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Shorter shifts for medical residents don’t appear to be making any big improvements in doctors’ fatigue levels or in patient care, new research shows. The study was published online Feb. 9 in CMAJ, the journal of the Canadian Medical Association.

Researchers looked at overnight schedules of 12-, 16-, or 24-hour shifts, evaluating 47 residents in two adult teaching hospitals assigned randomly to each of the shifts for two months. Residents assigned to the shorter schedule did not report feeling less tired. There was no significant difference between shifts in levels of doctor burnout either. The doctors did report more complaints such as nausea, headache, and eye pain while on the longest shift.

Eight hundred seven patients were admitted to intensive care units during the study period. The number of adverse events did not differ among the three shifts, the researchers found. But, of the eight adverse events classified as preventable, seven of them happened during the shortest shift (12 hours). Patients were no more likely to die during a long shift than a shorter one.

The results “question the rationale for shortening the exposure of the residents to the patients,” study leader Christopher Parshuram, M.D., an associate professor of pediatrics, critical care, and health policy management and evaluation at the University of Toronto, told HealthDay.

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