Physician training has long been notorious for marathon shifts, sleepless nights on call, and holidays worked. But that began to change in 2003, when the medical profession placed restrictions on work hours during residency. However, experts wondered, can we train residents in fewer hours and still make good doctors?
A new study in the BMJ says yes. The researchers, led by Dr. Anupam Jena, a professor of health care policy and medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Stanford Health Policy's Jay Bhattacharya, looked at the performance of internal medicine doctors in their first year of unsupervised medical practice after completing their training.
They compared the outcomes for patients of two groups of physicians: those trained before 2003, when the typical work week was 100 hours; and those trained later under the new rules, which capped weekly hours at a mere 80, with no individual shift exceeding 30 hours. For the three quality measures examined — mortality within 30 days of being hospitalized, readmissions, and hospital services used (a measure of efficiency) — they found no differences between the groups.
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