Physicians Should Avoid Fatigue in Patient Care

February 7, 2008

Physicians should structure their workloads and work hours to avoid fatigue when caring for patients, according to a committee opinion of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists published in the February issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

THURSDAY, Feb. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Physicians should structure their workloads and work hours to avoid fatigue when caring for patients, according to a committee opinion of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists published in the February issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The committee notes that the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get eight hours of sleep per night, and that recovering from a period of insufficient sleep requires two to three nights of adequate uninterrupted sleep.

Although the committee notes that there is no clear link between physician rest and quality of patient care, they suggest that physicians should adapt guidelines from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This includes structuring work to coincide with circadian rhythms, sleeping when sleepy, providing for backup, sleeping immediately after a night shift, applying good sleep habits, recognizing symptoms of fatigue and napping strategically.

"Because of the issues of patient safety, fatigue should be addressed by all practitioners, and efforts should be made to adjust workloads, work hours and time commitments to avoid fatigue when caring for patients," the committee writes. "Physicians should not fear economic or other penalties for requesting assistance."

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