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Less hours and the same work load increases doctor errors

Some of the most popular shows on television have been about young doctors working as interns in a hospital setting. However, the shows often glamorize a job that is grueling and challenging. In reality, interns at Providence hospitals are expected to work long hours with little sleep, avoid making medical errors and provide the best quality of care to their patients. As more attention is being placed on delayed diagnosis, medication errors, and the increasing number of risks to patients, some wonder if the traditional intern program is really effective.

To reduce doctor errors from being made, intern hours were cut down a bit. However a recently published study shows that there are other factors which need to be examined, and which also contribute to the number of mistakes being made. These factors include workloads, lack of communication when doctors turn their patients over to the next physician and loss of valuable medical training.

Since 2011, interns in emergency rooms have been given 16-hour shifts instead of 24. However, the study showed that the workloads of those interns remained the same. As a result, they admitted committing more medical errors than interns who worked longer shifts. This indicates that hospitals need to make changes that will reduce the amount of patients interns care for during their shift by having more staff on hand.

While there is a shortage of staff in hospitals across the country, it seems apparent that the only true way to reduce the amount of errors being made by interns is to reexamine the entire internship program to ensure that doctors receive the experience and training they need without becoming overloaded. Without a healthy balance, more patients will continue to be victims of medical mistakes.

Source: Time, "Fewer Hours for Doctors in Training Leading to More Mistakes," Alexandra Sifferlin, March 26, 2013

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