Northwestern Study Finds Restricting Surgical Residents’ Hours Doesn’t Improve Quality of Care

When restrictions were imposed upon the number of hours surgical residents were allowed to work in 2011 it was intended to improve patient safety and reduce medical errors. However, a new Northwestern University study has found that such restrictions do not improve patient safety and may cause more harm than benefit. “Our study suggests that these latest duty hour restrictions have no benefit and may actually have the unintended consequences of hurting patient safety, resident education and the doctor-patient relationship,” said lead study author Dr. Karl Bilimoria. They seriously disrupt the continuity of caring for surgical patients, which is vitally important, so we believe the recent 2011 rules should be repealed. The newest rules have led to decreased continuity of care so the same doctor is not able to care for a patient throughout the life-threatening moments of a particular episode, Bilimoria said. You want the person who knows you to take care of you through the really critical phases. Once you are stabilized or the operation is done, then you can hand off care in a responsible way.” Perhaps further studies will clarify this critical issue.