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Statements From Experts in Response to the ACGME Board’s Reckless Vote to Loosen Medical Resident Work Hour Rules

Note: Today, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) announced that effective July 1, 2017, it has rescinded the current 16-hour shift limit for first-year medical residents (also known as interns) and will allow them to work 28-hour or longer shifts without sleep.

Dr. Michael Carome, director, Public Citizen’s Health Research Group: “Fourth-year medical students across the country are now bracing themselves for inhuman shifts that will require them, just after graduating from medical school, to make life-or-death medical decisions and to drive home while sleep-deprived for 28 hours or longer. The ACGME’s adoption of this dangerous proposal displays a reckless disregard for the lives and health of thousands of medical residents and their patients nationwide.”

Dr. Kelly Thibert, national president, American Medical Student Association, who will begin her residency training this summer: “Extreme sleep deprivation and long hours are a holdover from the early 20th century when residents literally resided in the hospitals in which they trained. There is no reason to continue to subject medical trainees to mental and physical exhaustion for years on end, with the harm that ensues to them, their families and their patients, simply to maintain an archaic tradition.”

Dr. Eve Kellner, president, Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU Healthcare: “As a medical resident, I’ve seen firsthand how exhausted and accident-prone my colleagues are during extremely long shifts. And as a patient, I fear putting my life into the hands of a first-year resident physician who has been awake for 28 hours or longer without sleep.”

Lacey Kohlmoos, online organizing strategist, Care2, and the spouse of an incoming first-year resident: “I have seen how long shifts and sleep deprivation can lead to young doctors becoming jaded, chronically tired, completely disconnected from their friends and family, and even suicidal. My husband is about to become a first-year resident, and these new ACGME rules makes me fear for his and his patients’ safety and the emotional well-being of our family.”

See a press release announcing the delivery of petitions to the ACGME with more than 67,000 signatories from Americans and people around the world opposing the proposal adopted today.

See a report of a 2016 public opinion poll showing that the vast majority of Americans oppose the proposal adopted today and do not want any medical resident to work shifts longer than 16 hours.

See testimonials from former and current medical residents describing what it is like to work long shifts while sleep-deprived.

See Public Citizen’s work advocating for safer medical resident work hours, spanning more than 15 years.