Studies: Resident shift limits don't lower mortality

Over the past several months, I've reported on a few studies which suggest that long shifts for physician-trainees breed medical errors. Now, some new studies have come to fruition which argue against that conclusion.

The new studies, which appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association, concluded that while death rates dropped for one group of patients when residents' hours were limited, deaths didn't drop for three other patient groups. The studies included 318,000 VA patients and more than 8.5 million Medicare patients seen at hospitals across the U.S.

Right now, new work-hour rules require that physician-trainees can only work 80 hours per week. Before this, residents could end up working 100 hours in a week, and sometimes took 36 hour shifts. However, some observers suggest that the rules may not be strictly observed in many hospitals, which could have a meaningful impact on the results.

To learn more about this research:
- read this Associated Press piece

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