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Accreditation Council Allows First-Year Doctors To Work 24-Hour Shifts, Critics Unhappy [VIDEO]

Update Date: Mar 13, 2017 06:54 AM EDT

In a memo published on March 10, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has made revisions in its guidelines on requirements for doctors in training, also called residents. First-year residents may now opt to work as long as 24 hours in one stretch, and an additional four hours when needed during care transitions.

Rookie doctors are allowed 80 hours a week for clinical and educational hours, a policy in place that was not changed. The officials overseeing the professional preparation of physicians emphasized the necessity for the training to closely match real-world practice. Working for an extended period of time is inevitable in their line of duty. They assured the public that first-year residents deliver high-quality patient care on their first day at work under supervision.

ACGME cited a study on the effect of the 16-hour work cap to patient care and the well-being of doctors. Results showed that it did not have any positive effect on the safety of patients but it was disadvantageous to the doctors' education. A survey showed that the residents were in favor of a more flexible schedule that allows them to work longer when the situation calls for it. In March 2016, the council listened to comments from organizations, experts and individuals in a meeting.

Critics are unhappy about the decision, the Los Angeles Times reported. In 1984, Libby Zion, an 18-year-old girl died in a New York City hospital. Her doctors were residents who appeared to be overworked. A regulation was put in place after the incident to limit their work to 80 hours per week.

Public Citizen, a consumer group, said the change was reckless. Eve Kellner, the president of the Committee of Interns and Residents at the Service Employees International Union, feared that sleep-deprived first-year residents might not be in the best condition to care for patients. They are prone to commit mistakes.

The new regulation will take effect on July 1.

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