New regulations in 2011 restricted the number of continuous hours a first-year resident could spend on call, from 24 hours to 16 hours. Despite the cut in hours, residents are not getting more sleep, and are reporting more errors and symptoms of depression, according to Time.
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine compared two groups of interns: one group that was on call every fourth night for a maximum of 30 hours, and the other working under the new regulations. Self-reported data from the latter group showed the same risk of depression at 20 percent, and a 15 to 20 percent increase in errors.
One explanation for the results is that despite spending less time on duty, the interns reported being expected to complete the same amount of work, possibly leading to work compression. Additionally, as interns worked shorter shifts, cases were handed off to other physicians more often. When the care of patients passes to another physician, the chance of error in communicating symptoms or other aspects of the patient’s health increases.