Allowing doctors shorter shifts and time to sleep seems like a no-brainer when it comes to preventing medical errors in hospitals. Residents who pull 30-hour shifts become fatigued- physically and mentally. In controlled studies, doctors working 30-hour shifts made 36 percent more major medical errors than those working 16-hour shifts. Since 2003, residents have been limited to 80 hours of work per week, and in July 2011, rules detailing shift-length restrictions and rest-period requirements came into effect.
So why hasn’t the incidence of medical errors fallen in the wake of these changes?
It’s a classic case of plugging up one leak in a dam only to see several others spring in its place. An article in the New York Times said shorter shifts lead to better-rested doctors, but result in more patient handoffs. When a patient sees multiple doctors, the chance of miscommunication, misdiagnosis and medical errors increases.
Experts also cite poor enforcement of new regulations, lack of communication and outdated modes of communication, such as handwritten notes, as trouble areas that can result in medical errors and, ultimately, patient injury or death.
If you or a loved one have been a victim of a medical error in a hospital, contact Scott Mullins, Injury Attorney, an experienced medical malpractice law firm in Cincinnati.