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Do Working Hour Restrictions Help or Hurt Surgical Students?

Written by Ankin Law Office

Surgery is a serious medical procedure that requires significant training and experience. Patients expect that when they “go under the knife,” their doctor will be well-equipped to handle the procedure skillfully and without surgical mistake.

Unfortunately, new data shows that surgical students are not getting the experience that they need following the implementation of working hour restrictions in July 2011. According to a recent Reuters article, researchers tracked a group of first-year surgical residents during 2011 and 2012 and found that surgeons-in-training participated in 26 percent fewer operations than their counterparts in the previous four years.

The working-hour restrictions enacted in July 2011 limit the shifts of first-year resident surgeons (who are also known as interns) to 16 hours and the shifts of the more senior residents to 28 hours. The restrictions were enacted due to pressure from the public and government officials to reduce preventable medical errors by sleep-deprived doctors. The new restrictions supplemented existing regulations that limit resident work weeks to 80 hours.

Unfortunately, the new restrictions seem to be putting surgical students and surgical educators in a bit of a catch-22 situation because surgical residents are not getting adequate surgical experience. According to Dr. Samer Mattar, a professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine, “This is one of the dilemmas that educators have. These residents are simply not finding enough time to practice.”

The prevention of surgical errors has been an on-going source of debate – one that needs to be addressed given the prevalence of surgical errors at hospitals throughout Chicago and across the country. According to research conducted by Johns Hopkins University, surgical “never events” (those mistakes that should never occur in surgery) happen at least 4,000 times a year in the United States. The data, which was published in Surgery, revealed that more than 80,000 “never events” occurred between 1990 and 2010. The study also revealed that approximately 39 times a week a foreign object, such as a towel or sponge, is left inside of a patient and about 20 times a week, surgeons perform the wrong surgery or operate on the wrong body part.

The Chicago surgical malpractice attorneys at Ankin Law Office, LLC are dedicated to protecting the rights of medical malpractice victims. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a surgical error, the doctor, surgeon, anesthesiologist, or hospital may be liable for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress, among other damages.

Contact one of our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at (312) 600-0000 to learn more about a possible medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuit.

Categories: Medical Malpractice