OSHA Petitioned to Regulate Resident Physician Work Hours

In September of 2010, Public Citizen, a non-profit, non-partisan group that advocates on behalf of the American people, filed a petition with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also referred to as OSHA, asking them to regulate the hours resident physicians are allowed to work.

As doctors in training, residents work intensely long hours. In the United States, residents are allowed to work 80 hours in one week alone; double what most Americans typically work. They are allowed to work 30 consecutive hours in a shift, with only 8 hours as the minimum rest hours required between shifts. Residents in other parts of the world aren’t subjected to such working conditions. New Zealand compares the closest to the U.S., with their residents allowed to work 72 hours a week but only 16 consecutive hours in a shift. They also permit 8 hours as the minimum rest hours between shifts. The European Union and the United Kingdom tie at 48 hours as the maximum number of hours residents are allowed to work per week, the closest to New Zealand.

Exhausted residents means a decrease in the quality of care patients receive. Researchers from Harvard found that residents who worked a traditional schedule of 24 hours or more made 36 percent more serious medical errors than those interns who worked 16 hours. In another study, researchers discovered that residents who worked five or more 24 hour shifts a month reported 7.5 times as many fatigue-related errors injuring patients and four times as many errors related to fatigue that led to patient death than those who worked shorter shifts.

While the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) is supposed to regulate resident’s work hours, a study in 2006 found that 83 percent of residents reported work-hour violations.

If you believe you were injured by a fatigued resident while receiving treatment at a hospital, contact the Florida medical malpractice attorneys at Farah & Farah to find out your options in pursuing a medical malpractice claim