Worn Out Doctors Make Mistakes on Short Shifts

New study reveals shorter shifts for doctors lead to more hospital errors.
1:31 | 03/26/13

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Transcript for Worn Out Doctors Make Mistakes on Short Shifts
Ten years ago, we learned about the exhausted medical intern. So the policies changed. Fewer hours, more changes of shift. But tonight, a counterinitutuitive surprise. Did this put patients at greater risk? Abc's dr. Richard besser reports. Reporter: There are as many 98,000 deaths each year from mistakes made in america's hospitals. Some of the blame -- exhausted doctors. But the new studies are raising questions about the fix. Residents today report making more mistakes than they did when the shifts were longer and they had less sleep. One of the major reasons, shorter shifts mean doctors hand off critical information about you and your care to the next team on duty more frequently. Whenever you or a loved one is in the hospital you need to be aware if this. Think of it as a game of telephone. It used to be, during a three-day stay in the hospital, your information was handed off three different times. Now as many as nine. The more hand offs the greater the chance for mistakes. These new studies are surprising and frightening. But there's something you can do to protect yourself. If possible, when you're in the hospital, always have an advocate with you, a family member, a friend, who can help make sure that the important information about you has been passed along correctly. This includes everything from your allergies to your treatment plan. It can make a really big difference. So double check what is happening in the handoff.

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