New guidelines for medical residents leave much to be desired

So, the long-awaited new guidelines from the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), the group responsible for training doctors in the U.S., on medical resident work hours frankly weren’t worth the wait.

The group reformed very little about the length of shifts that medical residents pull (sometimes marathon shifts of 30 continuous hours, twice a week), really only shortening the shifts for residents in the ICU. Yes, those residents need to be alert, but so do doctors in all divisions.

The coalition WakeUpDoctor.org, which Public Citizen is a part of, issued a report card yesterday to see how the ACGME’s guidelines lined up to recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2008. How did they do? F, B, C, F. That certainly wouldn’t make the honor roll.

From the press release:

“The improvements in the new ACGME guidelines are largely swamped by the failure to cover the majority of medical residents with the protection of not having to work more than 16 hours continuously,” said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. “This is the second revision of ACGME requirements in the last seven years and the organization still does not get it right.”

And from the AP story:

Dr. Sidney Wolfe of Public Citizen is among advocates who had pressed for stricter shift limits for all residents. Working 24 hours without sleep is dangerous for residents and their patients, and shortening hours for interns only “makes no sense at all,” he said.

Pissed off? Want to be treated by a doctor who hasn’t been working for more than a day? Well, the ACGME has a 45-day comment period. Make your voices heard.