Will Shorter Resident Shifts Reduce New York Medical Malpractice Injuries?

To some people, the traditionally long hours kept by medical residents are a rite of passage and important learning tool. To other people, they are a potentially dangerous practice that could hurt patients when new, less experienced and tired doctors are the ones making important medical decisions.

In order to address this concern, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education recently changed the rules concerning how long residents can work without breaks. This is the first significant change to resident hours since 2003 and affects residents in approved residency programs throughout the country and here in New York.

Pursuant to the new rules that went into effect on July 1, 2011:
  • First year residents may work no more than 16 consecutive hours. Previously, first year residents could work up to 30 consecutive hours. (Special circumstances may necessitate longer shifts)
  • Residents must have eight hours off between shifts.
  • Residents must be provided with four days off per month.

Those who oppose shorter residency hours believe that patient will lose out on the benefits of continuing care and knowledge that comes from being treated by one doctor. Those who support the changes believe that well rested doctors who communicate about patient needs as shifts change will prevent New York medical malpractice errors. Physician fatigue has been linked to errors such as misdiagnoses and treatment mistakes.

While it will take some time to see whether the shorter shifts worked by residents result in fewer New York medical malpractice cases, the laws regarding medical malpractice claims remain the same. If you have been hurt by the negligence of a New York doctor, hospital, nurse, or other medical provider, then you may have the right to pursue a legal recovery.

Please contact a New York medical malpractice attorney at 1-800-PAGAN-911 today for a free consultation about your rights and potential recovery.