Car Crashes Common for Sleepy Doctors in Training: Study

FRIDAY Dec. 28, 2012 -- Medical residents are at increased risk for traffic crashes because of fatigue and stress caused by working long hours in the hospital, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., surveyed about 300 residents over the course of their residency and found that about 11 percent were involved in accidents and 43 percent reported nearly getting into a crash during the training.

Residents said the traffic incidents were caused by fatigue and distress, including feelings of burnout or depression, according to the study, which was published Dec. 17 in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Medical residents typically work long, intense shifts as they train to become doctors.

"Just like any other field, residents need their recovery time," study lead author Dr. Colin West, an internal medicine physician, said in a Mayo Clinic news release. "In order to make good decisions, physicians need to be physically and emotionally well. Residents need to be rested. We don't want them to have undue amounts of stress."

The fact that motor vehicle accidents are common among residents brings "the issues of resident fatigue, sleepiness and distress to a new level of priority," West said. "New interventions designed to address both resident fatigue and distress may be needed to promote patient and resident safety."

The researchers also asked the residents about how often they had been exposed to patients' blood and body fluids, and found that about 8 percent reported at least one incident of exposure due to fatigue or stress during their residency.

More information

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has more about medical residents' duty hours.

Posted: December 2012


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