In July of this year, rookie doctors — those in their first year as full-time physicians — will be allowed to work for 24 hours in a row. This will be true all over the United States.

The reason for the change is that the cap is being eliminated. It had been set at 16 hours of patient care in a row. It’s been debated back and forth for some time, and now that extra 8-hour block is being added on.

Those who oppose the move say that this could bring greater risk to patients. Not only would they get young, inexperienced doctors, but those doctors could also be tired and sleep deprived. One school of thought says that more mistakes and errors would happen in that situation.

Arguing for the other side, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education claims safety should actually get better for patients. One reason is that patients won’t be passed from one doctor to the other as often. This could reduce communication errors that happen, for example, when a new doctor comes on and doesn’t fully understand the patient’s situation.

They also argue that the increased shifts will be helpful for the doctors, giving them better training since they’ll be with each patient for longer, especially right after they are admitted to the hospital — a critical time.

This is obviously something that has been debated extensively, but it’s important for patients to know that the change is coming so that they can monitor what the impact is really like on their end. Those who are harmed by mistakes, perhaps because doctors are tired and worn out, need to know if they have a right to compensation.

Source: The Washington Post, “First-year doctors will be allowed to work 24-hour shifts starting in July,” Lenny Bernstein, March 10, 2017