The following statistics were recently compiled by the AMSA:
- The Institute of Medicine released a report revealing nearly 100,000 annual deaths resulting from medical errors.
- Before work-hour changes resident physicians work up to 120 hours a week, including 36 hour shifts for several weeks at a time.
- After 24 hours of wakefulness, cognitive function deteriorates to a level equivalent to having a 0.1% blood alcohol level. These doctors would be considered too unsafe to drive; yet they could still treat patients for 12 more hours.
- Forty-one percent of resident physicians attribute their most serious mistake in the previous year to exhaustion. (AMSA)
That said, resident work hour caps haven't been implemented without some complaints. Older doctors believe that the more experience you have treating patients and their diseases the better you will be as a physician. An old saying in medicine goes "the only thing wrong with being on call every other night is that you only get to see half the patients." Beside being the hardest worked member of the medical team, an intern is at the bottom of the food chain at a teaching hospital. Any unpleasant, menial task (called scut work) is the intern's job.
After the intern year, residents spend more and more time focusing on their area of specialty. Beginning with relatively simple procedures, they learn progressively more complex tasks. Medicine is taught on the premise "see one, do one, teach one." In other words; watch a procedure performed, do the procedure yourself, then teach someone else how to do it.
Medical residency training is without a doubt a grueling experience, but the US consistently turns out the best doctors in the world, so despite it's drawbacks, it is a highly effective form of education for new physicians.
Articles in this series:
- Becoming a Doctor Are you trying to decide whether becoming a doctor is right for you? Take a realistic look at what it takes to get there.
- Steps to Become a Doctor Premed Planning - The timeline and steps to become a doctor, including undergraduate studies, gaining experience in the medical industry and taking the MCAT.
- Applying to Medical School Ready to apply to medical school? Be prepared for the application process and for medical school interviews.
- How to Become a Doctor What to Expect in Medical School - Medical school curriculum, USMLE, and the cost of medical school
- NRMP and Medical Residency What is residency for doctors? Medical Residency, ERAS, NRMP, the Residency Match and the Scramble - The process of getting matched with a medical residency position, and the medical resident's role.
- Being a Doctor What It's Like to be a Doctor