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Study: Fatigued Residents Pose Risk to Patients

A new Harvard study finds that resident-surgeons are most likely putting patients in danger due to a lack of sleep. The study followed 27 residents from two Boston-area hospitals from 2010 through 2011.

According to the results of the study, residents received an average of 5.3 hours of sleep per day. However, Reuters reports that the actual amount of sleep received ranged from 2.8 to 7.8 hours. Residents working the day shift tended to average more sleep than residents working the night shift - 5.7 hours compared to 5.1 hours.

Researches indicate that due to a lack of a full night's sleep, these fatigued residents only functioned at about 70 percent of their mental effectiveness. This, according to researchers, is the equivalent of having a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or essentially legally drunk in every state of the union.

While the actual number of medical mistakes made by the residents studied was not tracked, researchers estimate that fatigued residents have a 22 percent greater chance of making medical or surgical errors as compared to their well-rested colleagues.

Medical errors caused by fatigued residents are by definition preventable. Medical errors can exacerbate existing injuries or cause new ones, increase a patient's pain and suffering, lengthen the amount of time it takes a patient to recover, or even result in permanent injuries or death.

Source: Fox News, Tired surgical residents may up error risk, study suggests, May 22, 2012.

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