Petition asks ACGME not to increase hours for new doctors

Doctor time
Directors of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education received a petiton asking them not to increase the hours for work shifts for new medical residents.

Medical residents made their voice heard this morning, delivering a petition with more than 67,000 signatures at a board meeting of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education asking directors not to increase the hours for new medical residents' work shifts.

Organizers of the drive presented the petition at the ACGME’s board meeting in Chicago, saying it would be dangerous to increase shifts for new residents from the current limit of 16 hours to 28 hours.

The petition was supported by Care2, Public Citizen, the American Medical Student Association and the Committee of Interns and Residents and urged the ACGME board to reject a proposal it said will endanger medical residents and their patients by allowing new doctors to work 28-hour shifts. The board is expected to vote on the proposal within the next few weeks, the group said. If approved, the new requirements would take effect in July, at the start of the next residency academic year.

The ACGME is considering a proposal that would eliminate the current 16-hour shift cap for first-year medical residents and allow them to work 28 consecutive hours. The group said the proposal is opposed by the vast majority of the American public as shown in a poll commissioned by Public Citizen which found nearly 90% oppose scuttling the 16-hour shift limit for first-year medical residents.

The brief petition was addressed to the board of directors. “The research is clear: Tired interns are more likely to make mistakes that injure or even kill their patients, and are more likely to be injured themselves. The American people are counting on the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education to keep us safe,” it read.

The ACGME has proposed changes to its rules governing residents that would allow them to work 24-hour shifts—a third longer than they are currently allowed to work—plus up to four more hours to manage transitions in care. It's an about face from about a decade ago when ACGME took actions to restrict some of the most brutal aspects of medical residencies, such as eliminating back-to-back shifts that could last as long as 30 hours apiece.

But the ACGME changed its thinking after a review of the latest research—including a study published this year by the New England Journal of Medicine, which concluded that longer hours for surgical residents did not necessarily pose any safety risks.