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Press Release

"The Phantom Menace of Sleep Deprived Doctors"

August 5, 2011

The New York Times featured Christopher Landrigan, HMS associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Ted Sectish, HMS associate professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Boston in an article announcing new rules abolishing traditional 30-hour overnight shifts for first year residents.

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, which oversees residency programs agreed to the new limit of no more than 16 consecutive work hours for first year residents following years of research linking serious medical errors to fatigued residents and interns. Dr. Landrigan ran a study in 2004 that showed interns working the traditional schedule including a 30 hour shift every third night made 36 percent more serious errors than interns working on a staggered schedule with shorter shifts, allowing them time for sleep. The ACGME will still permit shifts of 28 consecutive hours for more senior residents, including surgical residents.

Earlier this year Dr. Landrigan published a report in Nature & Science of Sleep about the new restrictions, saying that they are not enough to protect the safety of patients. Serious medical errors still occur due to other inherent problems within the medical system that need reform, including the organization of hand-offs of patient information between doctors changing shifts, the use of paper records instead of more efficient electronic records, and a need for more supervision of residents by senior doctors.

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