Even though the practice of making internist doctors work 24 to 48 hours has been discontinued in recent years, some doctors and nurses still work long shifts.—up to 16 hours. That’s bad for them, and studies have shown it can affect patient care too. Long hours mean more errors, studies show.
The problem of internist doctors and nurses having to work 30- to 36-hour shifts has been ending around the United States as some teaching hospitals and other institutions have initiated 16-hour shifts since 2011. Nevertheless, these people we trust our lives to work long hours overnight. How do doctors and nurses stay awake on the night shift?
The problem really received a lot of attention in 1984, when Libby Zion, an 18-year-old patient, died under the care of residents within 24 hours of being admitted to a New York City hospital. Her father, a New York Times reporter who alerted the media, sued.