Study finds that limiting resident-physician work hours improved patient safety outcomes

In 2011, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) limited first-year resident-physicians’ work hours to no more than 16 consecutive hours after studies indicated that longer shifts may increase risk of medical errors and other adverse outcomes. The response to the limit was mixed, and it was overturned in 2017, again allowing residents to be scheduled for up to 24 hours of continuous work. A new study examines the impact of the 16-hour limit on the safety outcomes of patients directly under the care of resident-physicians. Through national surveys of residents before (2002-2007) and after (2014-2017) the limit was enacted, the team found that resident-physician-reported medical errors and adverse events dropped by more than a third and medical errors resulting in patient death declined by almost two-thirds when the 16-hour limit was in place. Results are published in BMJ Quality & Safety.

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