Fri., July 1, 2011 3:35pm (EDT)

Medical Residents Get Shorter Shifts
By Noel Brown
Updated: 3 years ago

AUGUSTA, Ga.  —  
Starting today, doctors-in-training at Georgia hospitals have new limits on the number of hours they can work. Officials say the change will help reduce medical errors caused by lack of sleep.
Starting today, doctors-in-training at Georgia hospitals have new limits on the number of hours they can work. Officials say the change will help reduce medical errors caused by lack of sleep.
Doctors-in-training at Georgia hospitals now have new limits on the number of hours they can work in a single shift.

For nearly a decade, residents practicing in the state's hospitals and clinics have been allowed to work up to 30 hours in a single shift.

Now, the national board that accredits medical graduate programs has decided that could be putting patients at risk.

Under the new rules first-year residents, or interns, can only work 16 hours at a time. Second and third year residents are limited to 28 hours per shift but can’t take new patients during the last 4.

Dr. Walter Moore heads the residency program at Georgia Health Sciences University in Augusta. He says, even though residents are working fewer hours patient care won't suffer:

"The schedules are being adjusted in order to accommodate the fact that we want to have people who are fresh, alert and are in a position to be able to provide care for patients."

Moore says recent study by the Institute of Medicine suggests long hours for residents could be putting patients at risk.

Implementing the change could cost hospitals like GHSU millions of dollars. That’s because they could have to hire more staff or add residency slots to make up for the reduced hours.

Moore says many senior residents will likely have to see more patients to help offset the shortened hours for interns.