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Swing shifts and medical negligence: Are they connected?

On Behalf of | Apr 1, 2024 | Medical Malpractice

Errors in the medical industry certainly do not only occur in Delaware. In most states, there are problematic issues that should concern the average patient. There is no excuse for medical negligence, and there have been numerous studies to identify causal factors and (hopefully) prevent or at least reduce, the number of incidents in Delaware each year.

One controlled study of critical care units showed that there may indeed be a correlation between swing shifts in healthcare and medical errors or negligence. When they deleted extended shifts, they noticed a decline in medical team mistakes among the thousands of interns in residence who participated in the study.

Medical negligence risk in post-graduates

The study sparked concerns in the medical industry. Close to 3,000 interns participated, filing more than 17,000 monthly reports. During the months when residents worked swing shifts, the number of fatigue-related adverse incident reports increased three to seven times, as opposed to months when hospitals did not assign interns any extended shifts. It is logical to assume that the study’s implications would also be consistent in a post-graduate medical setting.

In Delaware and throughout the country, post-graduate medical students completing their clinical training must often work without sleep for 24 hours or more. If you’ve ever suffered from sleep deprivation, you understand that it can affect cognitive skills, such as your ability to concentrate. One can imagine what this might mean for a doctor who has gone without sleep due to working an extended shift, who may have to make swift decisions that are critical to a patient’s health and safety.

Marathon shifts currently permitted in the medical industry

In a medical setting, “marathon shift” typically refers to resident physicians working 30 consecutive hours. The current protocol permits nine marathon shifts each month. This translates to 270 hours (about 1 and a half weeks) worked without sleep.

As a Delaware medical patient, you are not responsible for the behavior of your medical team. You can expect doctors, nurses, lab technicians, surgical assistants and others to provide quality care under state laws and accepted safety standards. There is no excuse for medical negligence. If you have suffered injury or illness because of fatigue-induced errors or other substandard care, you have a right to financial recovery for your losses.