Study suggests shorter shifts don't help medical residents, patients

March 27, 2014

New research out of St Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto suggest that shorter shifts for medical residents do not improve patient care and can actually make their exam scores worse. Residents’ shifts at some hospitals have been scaled back due to the widespread opinion that long shifts lead to medical errors and poor patient outcomes. “What seems a counterintuitive result makes sense when you think about residency as specialized training that involves thousands of hours of observation and requires people to be able to work when fatigued and under pressure,” says report author and uToronto residency program Director Najma Ahmed. He adds that “following a patient’s journey from admission with a symptom through analysis, treatment, surgery and recovery” cannot be achieved in an 8- or 10-hour shift. In Ontario, residents work 24-hour shifts every third or fourth shift, and work for 10-12 hours during the shifts in between; in Quebec, shifts have been capped at 16 hours. Toronto Star