Many medical residents are still working more than 80 hours a week despite a growing movement to limit on-duty time and alleviate the fatigue of doctors in training, a new report states.
Five specialties, all surgical, say that their residents average more than 80 hours per week on duty during the first year of training, according to the report in last week's Journal of the American Medical Association.
Nine other specialties have on-duty hours ranging from 70 to 80 per week for first-year residents, according to the report. It did not list the nine specialties.
On-duty hours have been a growing area of concern among residents, other health-care professionals and legislators in several states. The 1984 death of Libby Zion, a young Manhattan woman, that resulted from inadequate care by unsupervised residents and interns, has raised serious questions nationally about the dangers posed by residents' fatigue.
Last year, New York, which trains 16 percent of the nation's doctors, became the first state to limit residents' shifts to 24 hours and their work weeks to 80 hours. Though still grueling, trainees say it is far better than the century-old tradition of 36-hour shifts and 100-hour work weeks.
At least 12 other states have considered, or are considering, limits on residents' working hours. One third of teaching hospitals already have voluntarily implemented limits, according to a survey by the Association of American Medical Colleges.