Clock watching by residents shifts time burden to attending physicians

LETTER — Posted Aug. 16, 2004

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Regarding "Resident hour limits still a struggle" (Article, July 19): It is important to emphasize that the limits on resident work hours are to be averaged over four weeks. As an attending physician, I have been told by residents that they had to leave because they had worked their limit, in spite of my pointing out that this is supposed to be an average, a fact of which residents seem to be blissfully unaware.

Many residents do not seem to take personal responsibility for their patients but just "put in their time" and go home. This is gravely concerning to me as I am seeing drops in patient care being made frequently. To prevent this, attending physicians are now putting in even longer hours than residents to provide continuity of care.

While I don't see a return to the era of the 100-plus hour workweek for residents, we have not improved the quality or safety of medical care with the current changes. Instead, we have just shifted the time burden to another group of physicians.

Moreover, many residents will have a rude awakening when they get into practice and realize that the clock doesn't stop until the work is done!

Kristin K. Elliott, MD, Marquette, Mich.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/08/16/edlt0816.htm.

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