The Issue of Sleep Deprivation Among Medical Professionals

Data compiled and analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) national health interview survey recently determined which occupations, on average, generate employees who sleep the least. The rankings were based on two variables: the average amount of sleep the employees got within 24 hours, and their occupations as they would be categorized by the division of labor. According to the survey, physicians ranked number four out of ten on the list of careers with sleep-deprived employees, closely following the occupations of home health aides, lawyers, and police officers.

Physicians have been known to work long hours and have busy schedules. As a result, sleep deprivation has become an element that many medical professionals have accepted as part of the job. The culture of the field of medicine deems fatigue as something to be ignored and/or a condition that must be overcome in order to be successful. Dr. Michael J. Breus, a blog writer for the Huffington post, even went as far to say that fatigue is perceived to be a “weakness of character” among medical professionals. And that “admitting to being tired is akin to admitting you’re less than committed to your work.”

But the underlying issue within this phenomenon is the risks physicians pose to patients, as well as to themselves when they don’t get adequate amounts of sleep. A new study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concluded that the lack of rest incessantly perpetuated by doctors is comparable to the actions exhibited by an intoxicated driver. The organization came to the conclusion that doctors who maintain these deficient sleeping habits put themselves at risk of danger when driving to and from work. But more importantly, they put their patients at risk of getting injured. According to the study, sleep-deprived doctors are more likely to commit medical errors while practicing on patients.

As of late, no efforts have been made to restrict the number of consecutive hours doctors are required to work, but there have been regulations put in place to lengthen them. Just recently, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) proposed an increase in the number of hours new doctors are authorized to work. If passed, the proposal will allow recently licensed doctors to work 28 consecutive work hours, 12 more hours than they are currently permitted to work now. There hasn’t been any recent work-hour or sleep regulations dedicated to remedying the issue of sleep deprivation in years. Since sleep deprivation can be considered one of the main factors in instances of medical malpractice, it’s unfortunate that not much has been done to decrease the occurrence of this condition among doctors.

If you or a loved one has been injured in the care of a medical professional or facility, you may be entitled to compensation. Call the Olson Personal Injury Lawyers™ at our Denver office at (303) 587-7297, or contact us online for a free consultation.

Author: Sean Olson

Sean Olson is much more than just a personal injury lawyer. Sean is an advocate who helps those who are injured navigate our complex legal system. And he is a voice for those who are injured and cannot speak for themselves.