AMA Argues Against Work-Hour Limits Advocated by Europeans

A new essay in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) opposes the European Working Time Directive that restricts physicians and residents from working more than 48 hours per week. The JAMA essay, written by physicians and researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Medical School, says that following the European directive could result in serious consequences for both medical education and clinical outcomes because it does “not explicitly address the unique nature of medical care.” The subtitle of the essay is “An Uncontrolled Experiment in Medical Care and Education.”

Thomas Nasca, MD, is the CEO of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), the agency that oversees the U.S. residency programs. He agrees with many of the essay’s points but says that the current 80-hour work week for medical residents will remain. An article in ModernPhysician.com, says Dr. Nasca believes “there are times when a fatigued physician who knows a patient best can deliver better care than a rested doctor who is totally unfamiliar with the patient” and that limits on work hours “are leading to a shift-work mentality and reducing the sense of professionalism in a new generation of physicians.”

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