Those long, hectic work hours in the hospital may help medical residents train for their careers as doctors, but such schedules may also put them at a greater risk of being in a car crash. A poll of 300 Mayo Clinic residents reveals that 11 percent of respondents had been involved in a traffic accident after work, while 43 percent reported “narrowly avoiding” an accident.
The respondents attributed the traffic incidents to fatigue and distress, including feelings of burnout or depression.
“Just like any other field, residents need their recovery time. In order to make good decisions, physicians need to be physically and emotionally well,” said lead author Colin West, M.D., Ph.D., an internal medicine physician at Mayo Clinic. “Residents need to be rested. We don’t want them to have undue amounts of stress.”
It is well documented that medical residents often work long and grueling hours during their 3-year residencies. While intense work schedules help prepare residents to become independent doctors, West stressed it’s important that educators continually update their approach to retain the value of the training while minimizing stress and fatigue.
“The mere fact that motor vehicle incidents are common among residents brings the issues of resident fatigue, sleepiness and distress to a new level of priority,” West explained. “New interventions designed to address both resident fatigue and distress may be needed to promote patient and resident safety.”
Participants completed surveys quarterly from July 1, 2007, through July 31, 2011, during their training period. The study was funded by the Mayo Clinic Department of Medicine Program on Physician Wellbeing and was published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.