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First-year doctors now allowed to work 24-hour shifts

Morgan Aguilar
March 15, 2017 05:38 PM

On Friday, The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education announced first-year doctors will be allowed to work 24-hour shifts starting July 1.

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The limit used to be 16. Dr. Betty Chang helps oversee nearly 600 first-year doctors, or residents, at UNM Hospital. She likes that the new requirements allow them to treat residents like adults.

"I mean I don't treat my 12-year-old the way that I'm required to treat the residents,” said Chang, associate dean of medical education at UNM. “I mean I never send my 12-year-old off to go to sleep when he has work to do."

The idea of sleep-deprived doctors may seem alarming, but Chang said the new rules will put an emphasis on teaching these young doctors self-care.

"I think the new requirements just really changes it, it's not talking about rigid numbers anymore, but talking about, that residency programs need to look at the health and wellness of the learners in addition to patient care," Chang said.

Sometimes it's better to have the same doctor on a case than having to switch at a crucial moment, Chang said.

“Sometimes in patient care, the most important thing a doctor can do is stay with their sick patient, and sometimes the most important thing the doctor can do is to go home because they're tired,” she said.

Under the new requirements, residents must still have one day off every seven days, and cannot work overnight more than once every third night.

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Morgan Aguilar

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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