An U.S study by Harvard Medical School suggests that doctors, especially first year doctors, working long shifts without rest have an increased risk (300 per cent) of making harmful or deadly medical mistakes, which could be prevented.
The study was based on monthly surveys covering around 2,737 first year medical residents working in 4 shifts, longer than 24 hours. The study analyzed areas such as their work schedule, sleep patterns and days off including reports on any medical mistakes they made on the job.
'Working for more than 24 hours is hazardous,' said Charles Czeisler, a sleep researcher at the Harvard Medical School and one of the authors of the study.
Czeisler and his colleagues found that residents who worked five extra-long shifts in a single month had a 700 percent greater chance of making fatigue-related mistakes that harmed patients and a 300 percent greater chance of mistakes that resulted in a patient's death. The researchers said about 100,000 medical residents in the country work extended shifts on a regular basis.
'These data suggest there are tens of thousands of preventable injuries to patients annually,' he said.