Public Wants Well-Rested Medical Residents to Ensure Safe Patient Care

A new national poll shows that the vast majority of the American public favors restricting the
work shifts of medical residents (also known as resident physicians) to no more than 16 straight
hours without sleep, according to a press release from Public Citizen. Importantly, 86% of the
public is opposed to lifting the 16-hour cap for first-year residents – a proposal being
aggressively pushed by physician groups. Moreover, 80% of the public supports implementing
the 16-hour cap for all residents, not just first-year residents. “Sleep-deprived doctors must make
life-or-death decisions while dealing with long overnight shifts,” said Arianna Huffington, author
of “The Sleep Revolution.” “This latest poll shows that the American people want well-rested
doctors treating them. When we take care of ourselves, we are more effective at taking care of
others.” The national poll, commissioned by Public Citizen and conducted by Lake Research
Partners, was unveiled today during a telephone press conference. The poll comes as the
Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) – the private organization that
sets the rules on resident work hours that are intended to protect the health and safety of both
residents and patients – is facing intense pressure from dozens of physician organizations to lift
the current 16-hour shift cap for first-year medical residents and allow them to work 28 or more
hours in a row without sleep, the press release notes. “Rarely do we see such striking bipartisan
consensus over any health care issue,” said Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners.
“The American public’s opinion toward medical resident work hours remains consistent and
overwhelming: The vast majority of people do not want doctors-in-training treating patients after
working grueling shifts of more than 16 hours without sleep.”
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