A year ago, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) changed the rules governing the schedules of medical residents. The new work hours were intended to curb resident fatigue, which the Institute of Medicine (IOM) had previously concluded was contributing to medical errors and accidents. But the new duty hours have actually exacerbated fatigue, jeopardized resident education, and endangered patient care at our nation’s teaching hospitals.
Up until the current guidelines took effect in July of 2011, medical residents could work up to 80 hours per week and 30 hours continuously. The new rules, while maintaining the 80-hour schedule, have limited the maximum shift for first-year residents to 16 hours. Senior residents may work 28 hours straight.