The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation in Doctors and What's (Not) Being Done About It

Posted by Gary Brod | Feb 23, 2017 | 0 Comments

Rigorous work schedules and stressful conditions are characteristics that are inherently rooted in certain occupations. Those who operate in these positions are more inclined to be sleep deprived - a state of being caused by a lack of sleep that affects an individual's capability of functioning properly. In response to this condition, some occupations where sleep deprivation is most prevalent have proposed and developed regulations or rules that effectively address the issue. For instance, truck drivers have rules that limit the amount of consecutive hours they are allowed to drive per day to get adequate amounts of sleep. pilots as well must abide the guidelines of restricted hours in the cockpit.

However, arguably one of the most important and beneficial occupations to date are physicians. Medical professionals have the capability of either bettering or worsening the health of those they practice on. Each decision made is an important one in the field of medicine, requiring doctors to be fully awake and responsive. With the long shifts and heavy workload associated with being a doctor, many have posed the question: Why don't doctors have regulated work restrictions? Especially when the well-being of doctors and patients alike is being compromised by malpractice and other medical errors.

A new study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted an eye-opening study about the dangers of not getting an adequate amount of sleep. On average, doctors sleep for about 5-6 hours each night. This lack of sleep is comparable to the lack of full capabilities experienced by an impaired driver. The foundation concluded that doctors who maintain these poor sleeping habits put themselves at risk by driving to and from work, and of even more concern, they are also gravely risking the lives of patients they practice on in a sleep deprived condition.

So far, regulations involving hours worked by young doctors, or first-year residents has not restricted consecutive work hours but lengthened them. These are doctors that are most inclined to make mistakes due to their inexperience in the field of medicine. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) recently announced a proposal for an increase in the number of hours a new doctor is permitted to work. The increase will allow young doctors the option of working 28 consecutive work hours rather than the 16 work hours in a row they are currently allowed to work. There are no current sleep or work-hour regulations across most fields of medicine that encourage professionals to get more rest.

As for the opinions of the actual doctors affected by sleep deprivation, they are essentially dismissive of the issue. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist (ACOG) released a statement saying this: “Additional research on the effects of fatigue on experienced practicing obstetrician-gynecologists is necessary before specific national guidelines that are evidence-based can be promulgated to improve overall patient safety and care.” In other words, there isn't enough evidence to induce medical organizations into creating guidelines to ensure that physicians receive adequate amounts of sleep. Unfortunately, the possibility to reduce potential medical malpractice occurrences in patients isn't enough to invoke change.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of the negligence of a medical professional, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact the Brod Law Firm today for a free consultation.

About the Author

Gary Brod

Attorney Gary Brod is the founder of The Brod Law Firm. For more than three decades, he has relentlessly championed the rights of injured people to receive just compensation for their serious injuries. In recognition of his hard work, dedication to his clients and results obtained on their behalf Gary Brod has received national acclaim for his achievements by leading lawyer and consumer rating organizations for the highest ratings possible by both peers and clients.


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