Viewpoint: The world of medicine needs a culture shift

An 80-hour limit on physician residency training work weeks makes no difference in patient mortality, admissions, readmissions or cost, a recent study revealed. Yet it is not only hours but the entire culture of medicine that needs to change, wrote two physicians from Northwestern University's Chicago-based Feinberg School of Medicine in an op-ed for The Hill.

The op-ed's authors are Sameena Rahman, MD, an obstetrician gynecologist, and Erin Paquette, MD, JD, a pediatric critical care physician, lawyer and ethicist.

Physicians and trainees have higher rates of burnout and undiagnosed mental health issues than the general U.S. population, the physicians wrote, and hostile working environments partially contribute to this issue. In addition to long work hours, physicians and residents experience sexual harassment and verbal abuse, which is partly due to the rigid hierarchy of medical settings.

Residents deserve an educational environment that fosters empathy and compassion, the authors wrote. Creating a supportive working environment will better prepare and motivate trainees, helping them maintain their idealistic visions about medicine as they continue throughout residency.

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