An alarming study published in the professional medical journal, Archives of Surgery, examined the amount of fatigue and sleeplessness among surgeons and found that surgical residents spend half of the time they are awake at less than 80% of their mental capacity. Moreover, the study also reveals that during at least one-third of the time, their mental capacity is at less than 70 percent. These residents get an average of five hours of sleep each night, and sometimes as much as only three hours. All these reflect the fatigue suffered by the surgical students. Moreover, a similar study published in the Archive of Internal Medicine reported that half of the doctors showed signs of “burnout” from fatigue. Just as the fatigue and exhaustion exhibited among surgical doctors, similar problems for physicians result in misdiagnosis, medical malpractice and incorrect procedures.
Fatigue refers to the feeling of exhaustion and lack of energy that usually impairs a person’s mental and physical functioning. Surgical students suffer fatigue due to insufficient sleep and extended work shifts. While resident surgeons are prohibited from working for more than 80 hours per week, their working hours are really measured monthly, which means that a resident may work for more than 80 hours in one week. This poses danger on the patients. Fortunately, while no actual errors occurred during the study conducted on the performance of the 27 surgeons, there was a significant risk increased risk of surgical errors for those residents who are suffering from fatigue.
Co-author of the study and part of the Harvard Combined Orthopedic Residency Program and Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Frank McCormick, stated that the reported “fatigue levels were higher than anticipated,” and stressed the need for a change in the shifts and hours of surgeons which would have a “clear, measurable difference.” Additionally, Dr. Jeffery Rothschild of Harvard University authored a separate study that found there was a increased risk in complications of surgical procedures by physicians who had less than six hours to of sleep.
Any person who has been harmed or injured due to medical or surgical errors has the right to seek compensation. Healthcare professionals and hospitals have the responsibility to keep the patients safe. Working with the leading RI medical malpractice lawyers handling these cases today, the Rhode Island attorneys at d’Oliveira & Associates want to ensure that you are offered the representation you deserve. Please contact the law offices of d’Oliveira & Associates at 1-800-992-6867 or fill out a contact form for a free legal consultation.