Unplug & Recharge//

Doctors Aren’t Superhuman. So Why Do We Impose Punishing Hours on Them?

Residents work under conditions few others would tolerate.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Many a bright young kid dreams about being a doctor. But if they knew the reality of residency — including 80 hour workweeks and shifts that can last for 28 hours — they might strive for a less demanding profession. As this Atlantic piece titled “Why So Many Young Doctors Work Such Awful Hours,” by Ryan Park, recently pointed out, our current medical training system leaves residents stuck with work conditions that people in any other industry wouldn’t put up with, let alone excel in.

One of the factors that contributes to these ultra-demanding standards is that doctors have “no legal right or ability to negotiate the terms of his or her entrée into the medical profession,” Park writes. A budding investment banker may be able to set flexible hours with an employer — a resident can’t tell a hospital that they’d love to accept a residency offer but won’t work more than 60 hours a week when the program calls for 70-plus. And while it is theoretically possible to select less intense programs via the “match” system, it’s unrealistic to think that every resident who wants work life balance will find a program that meets their (completely justified) needs.

All of this leaves us with a system in which “residents typically work more than twice as many hours annually as their peers in other white-collar professions, such as attorneys in corporate law firms — a grueling schedule that potentially puts both caregivers and patients at risk,” Park writes.

Having resident’s work fewer hours seems like a win-win. We don’t retain information or learn as well when we’re tired, according to research, so being well-rested would likely help doctors do their jobs better. Plus, patients would probably feel more at ease knowing that the person they’re trusting with their health isn’t on hour 26 of a 28-hour shift.

Just like in large corporations, changing the conversation in hospitals to one that prioritizes doctor’s well-being requires a shift in thinking from the top down. Until health-care decision-makers realize that the expectations placed on residents set them up for burnout and exhaustion, we’re stuck with a system that doesn’t put anyone’s health first.

Read more at The Atlantic.

Originally published at journal.thriveglobal.com

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


Hippocrates, We Have a Problem: Doctors Are Burning Out at Surprisingly High Rates

by Arianna Huffington

Doctor Suicide: The Elephant in the Examining Room

by Louise Stanger Ed.D, LCSW, CDWF, CIP

Your Doctor Is Absolutely Exhausted

by Alexandra Hayes

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.