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Hourly Restrictions on Surgical Interns May Be Leaving Them Unprepared to Operate

A few years ago, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) set forth new rules which placed restrictions on the number of hours that medical interns could work per shift. This decision was made as a way to reduce the number of preventable medical errors that many say were caused by interns suffering from sleep deprivation because of the number of hours they were required to work. At the time, interns could be required to work up to 80 hours per week. With the current restrictions, first-year residents cannot work a shift that goes beyond 16 hours, while senior residents are allowed to work up to 28 hours per shift.

But a recent study is suggesting that although interns may now be better rested, they are now suffering from a lack of hands-on experience. This may be especially true for surgical interns who, according to the study, are now participating in over one-fourth less surgeries than they did before the current restrictions were adopted.

The study examined the records of surgical interns being trained under the current restrictions and records interns who were trained under the old rules. The average number of surgeries that a surgical intern now participates in is 66. With the old rules, the average number of surgeries an intern participated in was 89. The study found that not only has the number of surgeries interns participate in with more experienced surgeons decreased, but there is also a decreased in the number of procedures where the intern is the lead surgeon. In order to be licensed as a surgeon, interns are required to participate in at least 750 major procedures before the end of their fifth year of residency.

Surgical experts have also expressed concern over the effect the current restrictions are having on surgeons-in-training. According to one expert, 20 percent of surgical fellowship directors overseeing surgical residency programs say the many surgical intern graduates are not ready to operate on their own.

If you’ve been injured or suffered serious injury caused by a preventable medical error, contact an experienced Virginia malpractice attorney today to find out what legal recourse you may have for pain and loss you have suffered.

Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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