11 July 2011

Old Guard Insists On Medical Resident's Initiation

I might have known that the old guard medical establishment would not give up easily. When I wrote this blog in January, I accused the old guard of using medical hazing like they were initiating college freshmen. Old habit dies hard, and the old guard has had to give way on first year residents, but after that it appears all bets are off until the next legal battle. In the interim, the initiations must go forward.

Never mind the errors medical residents will make and patients that may have their lives taken or damaged, medical initiation for medical residents must continue. Flying in the face of patient safety and reasonable work hours, effective July 1, 2011, medical residents can be scheduled to work up to 24 hours straight through and then have an additional 4 hours tacked on to their working schedule.

As patients, we can only hope that the teaching hospitals and all hospital with residents have excellent liability insurance and have their premiums paid up-to-date. It is not an, if this happens, but when it happens, patients lives are at risk and medical careers may be ended before even blossoming. But the old guard medical establishment feels this is the only way to teach medical students how to think on their feet and maintain medical initiation rites they had to endure.

Coauthor Lucian Leape, MD, an adjunct professor of health policy at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, in a press release accompanying the article said “the current system amounts to an abuse of patient trust.” Well said doctor! Therefore, any patient entering a teaching hospital must be aware that patient safety is not high on the priority list. The initiation rite of medical residents is top of the list and you as the patient will have your safety put at high risk by residents lacking in sleep and probably not at their best for functioning effectively.

I know that I will be hard pressed to remain in one of these situations once I have reestablished by cognitive abilities if I am taken there in an emergency situation. My wife has been told not to allow this.

What is not clear is how much rest time the medical residents get between 24 or 28 hours tours of duty. This has to be wearing on their psyche as well as a drain on their health.

Read the press release here.

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