Medical Mistakes More Likely with Long Work Hours
July 18, 2023
Recently, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) investigated intern physicians’ work hours and their effect on poor outcomes for patients. According to the researcher’s data, senior residents who work more than 48 hours a week or who work shifts longer than 24 hours at a time are more likely to make medical mistakes than residents who work fewer hours. The residents in the study worked an average of 60 hours each week, though other reports indicate that residents commonly work up to 80 hours per week.
The study’s investigators utilized U.S. nationwide prospective data to conduct monthly surveys among nearly 5,000 senior residents (postgraduate year two or above) to examine how work hours impact an intern physician’s self-reported safety events. (Note: it is important to mention that because physicians self-report their safety events, the numbers could be underrepresented.) They found that:
- Working an excess of 48 hours per week was significantly associated with excess medical negligence, adverse patient events, doctor errors, and fatal preventable adverse outcomes
- Residents who worked 60 to 70 hours each week made two to three times more medical errors and adverse events than residents who worked 48 hours or less weekly
- Residents who worked any extended shifts (a duration of 24 hours or more) within a single month was associated with a 1.5 to 2-fold higher risk for medical errors, adverse patient events, and fatal preventable adverse outcomes
- Working more than 48 hours weekly or for extended shifts was also associated with significantly more resident occupational exposures and percutaneous injuries, like needle sticks
According to the study’s authors, the results strongly suggest that implementing a cap on resident physician’s weekly and extended shift hours would improve patient safety by reducing medical errors, adverse advents, and fatal preventable adverse outcomes. They note that additional intern physician training could become necessary if the industry decides to limit working hours to a maximum, since it could affect overall resident experience and competency.
Common Types of Preventable Medical Mistakes
Safety experts from Johns Hopkins who conducted an eight-year-long study on patient safety and medical death rates reported that more than 250,000 Americans die from medical errors each year. This makes preventable medical mistakes even more deadly than the third-leading cause of death in the country, respiratory disease, which claims 150,000 lives annually. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) reports that some of the most common types of medical errors are:
- Adverse drug events
- Improper transfusions
- Misdiagnoses or delayed diagnoses
- Anesthesia errors
- Birth injuries’
- Failure to provide prophylactic treatment
- Catheter-associated urinary tract infections
- Central-line-associated bloodstream infection
- Under and over-treatment or errors in administering treatment (wrong dose medications, etc.)
- Obstetrical adverse events
- Mistaken patient identities
- Wrong-site surgeries
- Restraint-related deaths
- Surgical injuries
- Injuries resulting from falls and immobility
- Pressure ulcers (bed sores)
- Venous thrombosis (blood clots)
- Surgical site infections
- Ventilator-associated pneumonia
Time to Contact an Attorney?
Medical malpractice occurs when doctors, hospitals, or other healthcare providers fail to follow their own professional standards of care and cause harm to patients as a result. If a medical professional makes a mistake due to working an excess of hours or for another reason, it is a good idea to talk to a lawyer about filing a medical malpractice claim. Here are just a few examples of clients our team of medical malpractice attorneys have represented in the past:
- Our client suffered a severe brain injury when her heart stopped after a drug overdose. The defendant hospital failed to implant the patient with a pacemaker to address the issue in a timely manner. Because the defendant hospital failed to implant the pacemaker until 30 minutes into the patient’s code blue, she sustained an extensive and irreparable brain injury. Our attorneys achieved a $2,100,000.00 settlement in favor of our client and her family. You can read more about this recovery here: https://www.galfandberger.com/verdicts/Medical-Malpractice/48-2/
- Our client experienced bone fractures from a major fall. His doctor sent him home without recognizing the signs and symptoms of our client’s severe infection, which ended up causing serious complications. Our attorneys successfully settled the matter and received $1.3 million in favor of our client. Click here to read more: https://www.galfandberger.com/verdicts/Medical-Malpractice/20-2/
If you or a loved one sustained injuries because of a medical provider’s failure to maintain the appropriate standard of care, the attorneys at our firm can help. To learn more about filing a claim, contact a representative online now.
Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP, Representing Injured Victims Since 1947
If you have questions about filing a claim for injuries you sustained, contact the Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP today. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or fill out our online form for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.