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  • Writer's pictureJohn Larrimer

Can Medical Resident Work Hours Cause Workplace Safety Issues?

A recent article in Forbes explains how sleep deprivation endangers the safety of medical residents. The author, who is a doctor, describes a brush with death that happened during his third year of medical school while he was still a resident. According to the author, he was on call for a day-and-a-half when he dozed off while driving to the OB/GYN ward. He scraped up the side of his car against a cement lane divider, but did not suffer injuries. Incidents like this one are common due to medical resident work hours.

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) has proposed increasing the hours first-year medical residents can work. These medical residents are currently limited to 16-hour shifts. Under the new proposal, they could work for 24 consecutive hours. Unfortunately, research shows 24-hour shifts can cause serious workplace safety issues.

How Does Sleep Deprivation Endanger Medical Residents?

Research shows sleep deprivation can endanger medical residents in several ways. For example, a study published in the Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety claims physicians and residents with recurrent 24-hour shifts suffer 61 percent more needlestick injuries. These injuries can expose medical residents to HIV, Hepatitis C and other bloodborne pathogens. The study also found residents on these shifts double their risk of getting into a car wreck on the way to work.

Long-term sleep deprivation can also cause serious health problems such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes. It may also lead to depression and an increased risk of suicidal thoughts.

In some cases, medical residents suffer severe injuries or illnesses that require an extended period away from work. Medical residents are considered employees. Depending on the situation, injured medical residents may have options to receive workers compensation or other benefits.

The Ohio workers comp attorneys at Larrimer & Larrimer, LLC can help injured workers discover available options for compensation.

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