It wasn’t all that long ago that many voices within the medical industry were lamenting what was construed as the unduly long hours spent by beginning surgical resident on duty. The specific complaint was that sleep-lacking doctors were roaming hospitals across the country like zombies and performing operations while nearly blacking out on their feet.

The suggested remedy and stated panacea for reducing surgical errors and other sleep-related risks was to cut back on work hours, both for the work week as a whole and for individual shifts.

That was subsequently done nationally, including for resident in training in New Jersey hospitals. The accreditation organization for medical training implemented an 80-hour work week for residents in 2003 and thereafter supplemented that change by additionally mandating a 16-hour maximum shift for first-year interns in July 2011.

The feedback that is now coming in is not exactly what the authors of change were hoping to hear.

Specifically, a new study recently published in the medical journal JAMA Surgery reports that interns who have been practicing under the newer changes are receiving medical educations that are essentially diluted and that encompass far less hands-on surgical experience than that received by pre-change residents.

In fact, a comparison of the two groups reveals that newer trainee surgeons are participating in surgeries at a level only about 75 percent as high as their pre-change counterparts did.

Many industry commentators find that troubling, including the newer residents themselves. A recent survey of over 1,000 first-year residents indicates that close to 70 percent of them are not in favor of the new limitations, with a majority believing that they adversely affect their medical education.

Given the report and viewpoints expressed, close scrutiny in this area will likely commence, with some adjustments to scheduling made.

Source: Reuters, “Less practice for surgeons-in-training after restrictions,” Andrew M. Seaman, July 10, 2013