As of July 1st, The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education will allow first-year residents to work 24 hours without a break, scrapping the 2011 placed 16 hour shift cap. If a particular transition between doctors necessitates it, that can be extended to 28 full hours.
"The Task Force has determined that the hypothesized benefits associated with the changes made to first-year resident scheduled hours in 2011 have not been realized," the ACGME notes in its announcement of the changes, "and the disruption of team-based care and supervisory systems has had a significant negative impact on the professional education of the first-year resident, and effectiveness of care delivery of the team as a whole."
The scenario a task member mentioned when defending the unusually long shifts, "The previous cap occasionally prevented doctors from seeing a treatment or surgery through from beginning to end."
The group says its conclusion is based on "over 4,200 hours formulating the new requirements, including systematically reviewing over 1,000 published articles and extensive input from all stakeholders."
"Study after study shows that sleep-deprived resident physicians are a danger to themselves, their patients and the public," Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, told Rob. "It's disheartening to see the ACGME cave to pressure from organized medicine and let their misguided wishes trump public health."
"The question of work hour standards appropriately provokes great emotion in both the graduate medical education community and among segments of the general public," the ACGME acknowledges in its Friday announcement. But "it is important to note that 24 hours is a ceiling, not a floor," the group adds. "Residents in many specialties may never experience a 24-hour clinical work period."
While the ACGME is relaxing its restrictions on interns' shifts, it is maintaining previous regulations in other areas. Residents and fellows still cannot work more than 80 hours in a single week, and they must have at least one day off from clinical experience or education in any seven-day span.