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Does sleeping more really prevent surgical errors?

It's interesting, but recently there has been a limit placed on how long medical residents can work before they are forced off the clock. The rule, which limits residents to an 80-hour work week, has come about due to medical errors that could take place due to exhaustion. However, for neurosurgeons in training, it's been argued that the 80-hour work week simply isn't long enough. Neurosurgeon residents typically work 120 hours per week.

One U study found that shorter hours for the residents didn't necessarily help patients. In fact, the limits may actually leave the soon-to-be surgeons underprepared, placing patients in danger. Arguably intense and long hours may be what these residents need to prepare for working on the brain; the extra hours can provide them with extra knowledge and practice on rare medical problems or with difficult procedures.

The rules limiting work times are in place due to one patient's death that took place in 1984. At the time, the 18-year-old woman died in part due to the fatigue of the medical staff and medication errors. Work hours can't be so long that they allow for those kinds of errors, but some are arguing that by reducing the time doctors have to train, the rules are opening more patients up to future mistakes due to a lack of training.

This situation is just one that has medical teams arguing with those who limit their training times. As a patient in Washington, D.C., you just want to know that your doctor is educated and isn't fatigued. If you're hurt due to your doctor's exhaustion and surgical errors or due to your surgeon's lack of training, both situations can put you in a position where you have a right to seek compensation.

Source: The Star Tribune, "Is an 80-hour work week too short to learn brain surgery?" Dan Browning, Oct. 07, 2014

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