News | June 14, 2007

Fewer Hours for Medical Residents Result in Improved Patient Care

June 15, 2007 — According to a Yale School of Medicine Study, when medical residents work shorter hours, fewer patients are transferred to intensive care and there are not as many interventions by pharmacists to avoid errors in medication.

In addition, when residents' work schedules are limited to 80 hours per week more patients are discharged to their homes or rehabilitation centers instead of facilities such as nursing homes, the researchers found.

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) implemented work-hour regulations in July 2003 in hospitals across the country. Following the institution of these regulations, residents were no longer allowed to work more than 80 hours a week. The rules were intended to reduce errors caused by fatigue. However, one concern was that patient care would be transferred more often, increasing the possibility of mistakes.

Horwitz and her colleagues compared outcomes for patients under the care of house staff, or a teaching service, and patients cared for by a non-teaching service. They looked at data for patients discharged from July 1, 2002, to June 30, 2004. This included one year before and one year after the work-hour regulations were instituted.

In addition to the three outcomes that improved, the researchers measured length of stay, rates of 30-day readmission, in-hospital mortality, and drug-drug interactions.

Under the new rules, residents no longer stay overnight and are replaced by "nocturnalists," non-resident physicians who do the work of the night resident.

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