Healthcare News & Insights

OSHA weighs tougher rules on residents’ hours

Even tighter rules may be on the way that limit the hours residents can work in hospitals.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is considering a proposal to limit the long work weeks traditionally put in by resident physicians.

The proposal, submitted by a coalition of groups concerned about patient safety when treated by over-tired residents, calls for residents to be limited to:

  • no more than 80 work hours per week, with no averaging between weeks (i.e., residents could no longer work 60 hours one week and 100 the next)
  • shifts of no more than 16 hours
  • in-hospital, on-call frequency no more than once every three days, without averaging, and
  • no more than four consecutive night shifts, and 48 hours off after working three to four night shifts.

In addition, the proposal calls for residents to get at least 10 hours of free time between shifts.

The proposal cites evidence that residents’ sleep deprivation increases the risk of needle sticks, puncture wounds, other medical errors and even car accidents. But other studies have found that patients don’t face increased risks from surgical residents working longer hours — some have even found that reducing residents’ work hours can adversely impact patient care.

Is the proposal fair? Or does the current system work fine as it is? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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