Long work hours lead to physician errors: survey

More than three-quarters (76.2 per cent) of resident physicians responding to a survey said they had made errors at work due to the consecutive number of hours they are required to work, and two in 10 (18.5 per cent) said they made errors that negatively impacted patient care.
The Canadian respondents worked an average of 63.7 hours in a week during their last rotation and felt they were able to provide 19.2 consecutive hours of safe patient care. The optimal number of consecutive work hours cited by respondents was slightly lower, at 16.6, found the survey by the Canadian Association of Internes and Residents (CAIR) in Ottawa.

When residents were asked if they had ever experienced an incident and felt that work-related fatigue was a factor, falling asleep while driving accounted for 34 per cent of responses. A further 24.9 per cent mentioned they narrowly avoided a motor vehicle collision while 3.9 per cent of responses pointed toward being in a motor vehicle collision, found the survey of 2,305 CAIR members.

More than seven in 10 (72.9 per cent) respondents said they had experienced inappropriate behaviour from others that made them feel diminished during their residency. One-half said they had experienced this behaviour from staff physicians or nursing staff. The most commonly cited type of behaviour was yelling, shaming or condescension by colleagues (26.6 per cent).

Nearly four in 10 (37.8 per cent) cited their program director as a resource to help deal with inappropriate behaviour, while 54.9 per cent said the resources available to them were effective or somewhat effective, found the 2012 National Resident Survey.

Employment prospects
One-fifth of resident physicians are still looking for employment for after graduation, according to the survey, with the majority (87 per cent) in specialty-training programs,

Confidence in future job prospects among family medicine residents was high (97 per cent confident or somewhat confident). By contrast, residents in surgical specialties were the least likely to feel confident (48 per cent confident or somewhat confident),

"This survey points to the employment challenges that residents in some specialties are having and that the level of concern is widespread,” said CAIR president Simon Moore. “Patients depend on access to specialists in their communities. We need better health human resources planning to ensure such access is not further jeopardized.”

The full survey can be found on CAIR's website.