It may seem intuitive that shorter work shifts would be better for doctors and patients alike, but that may not be the case. Shorter shifts mean a larger number of handovers between doctors, and when a patient is handed over from one doctor to another, their information is also handed over. And each handover is a point where information can be miscommunicated or left out altogether.
“But it’s not lack of sleep alone that can lead to errors. Emerging research is pointing to patient handover – the critical process in which a doctor passes on information about a patient’s treatment to the incoming doctor – as another time when mistakes are likely to be made. It’s a discovery hospitals are only beginning to address. And attempts to shorten shifts have had unintended consequences, leading to residents working a greater number of shifts with less time to catch up on sleep – and increasing the number of handovers, says a report published Tuesday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.”
(Photo by Flickr user Seattle Municipal Archives, Creative Commons License)