New guidelines by the organization that oversees medical residency programs for new doctors in the United States will soon allow first-year residents to work shifts as long as 24 hours, eight hours more than the current limit.
The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, or ACGME, announced Friday that new doctors in their first year of residency can work 80 hours a week starting on July 1, and can work with patients for 24 hours at a stretch.
The current rule, which was implemented in 2011, allows new residents to work 16 hours straight. The hours were capped from a previous 24-hour limit over concerns that patients care might suffer if new trainees were too tired.
“At the heart of the new requirements is the philosophy that residency education must occur in a learning and working environment that fosters excellence in the safety and quality of care delivered to patients both today and in the future,” ACGME’s chief executive officer Dr. Tomas Nasca said in a memo on the group’s website.
The rule change comes as some doctor groups and educators wondered whether the 16-hour cap actually improved patient safety. Critics contended the shorter hours may have actually caused more medical errors because patients are handed off to other medical staffers more often, according to Forbes.com.
The new guidelines follow a review of new resident hours and the impact on patient care that started in 2015.