16-hour cap on medical residents' work hours improved their health, study finds

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Limiting the number of consecutive hours first-year resident physicians can work to 16 resulted in "meaningful improvements" in the safety and health of the residents, according to a study published in The American Journal of Medicine.

In 2011, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education instituted the 16-hour limit on work hours for first-year resident physicians.

Researchers gathered data from medical students who entered a U.S. hospital residency program in two time periods: from 2002 to 2007 and from 2014 to 2017. Abouy 15,276 first-year resident physicians participated in the study, reporting hours of work and adverse safety outcomes each month. They also reported the number shifts that lasted 24 hours or more.

Researchers found that after the implementation of the 16-hour work limit, the risk of residents:

• Being involved in motor vehicle crashes decreased by 24 percent
• Sustaining a percutaneous injury decreased by more than 40 percent
• Making mistakes due to lapses in attention was reduced by 18 percent

Additionally, the mean number of shifts lasting 24 hour or more per month decreased from 3.9 to 0.2.

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