Sleep Deprivation Spells Opportunity – and Responsibility

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Sleep Deprivation Spells Opportunity – and Responsibility

Saturday night (well, OK, in the wee hours of Sunday morning) across most of the US and Canada, we “sprung forward” our clocks, resulting in lost sleep, and at least a day of being totally thrown off because the day seemed… well…. just weird. Since most of us don’t work on a Sunday, the day of adjustment helped us acclimate, and then – life goes on with a longer day of sunshine through next Fall. But what if you had to lose that sleep every few days, then re-acclimate every few days?  What if you spent your life in a constant battle with the time of day, and the loss of sleep? What if you had to put in 28 hour days of work and then, somehow, try to catch up on your sleep, returning just 8 hours later to do it all again? And then what if your job was brand new and involved saving lives, because you were a first-year resident doctor (no, they don’t call them interns anymore)… and your patients, who were hospitalized so YOU could take care of THEM, were constantly at the mercy of your lack of sleep? The question of still-student doctors (residents) and the numbers of hours they work without a break while lives depend on them, has been questioned for decades beginning in 1984 when a teenager died at the hands of an exhausted resident. In 2011, the accreditors for medical schools (The ACGME, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education) reduced the number of hours first-year medical residents could work after the Institute of Medicine* sounded the alarm bells about safety concerns for patients who were treated by exhausted, sleep-deprived residents. “Reduced” is still relative… the hours were reduced to 16. Could you work at a heightened state of alertness for 16 straight hours? What if lives depended on YOU to be awake and alert for so long? Now what if you had to do that for 80 hour weeks? And then… what if you learned that same accreditation body, the ACGME, has just changed its rules again so that…


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