Eight out of 10 Korean trainee physicians suffer from lack of sleep and receive 29 phone calls on duty per night, a survey showed.
The Korean Intern Resident Association (KIRA) asked more than 660 interns and medical residents working at over 90 teaching hospitals across the nation how intense their work was and how they felt about the hospital’s policy for break time. Eighty-one percent of the respondents said they were usually sleep deprived. Only 0.9 percent said they had enough sleep.
Many of them said they were worried about their job performance because of lack of sleep. About 33 percent said they felt anxious all the time and 37.6 percent said they felt so often.
“I usually work until dawn, thinking this is going to kill me,” one of the respondents said. Other comments included, “I got hurt because I couldn’t focus while I was carrying a heavy surgical tool,” and “I confused patients, and I almost ran a test on the wrong patient and administered a drug.”
During night duty, a trainee physician had to deal with more patients than weekdays and receive 29 phone calls on average per day, the survey showed. About 36 percent said they had hospitalized patients three times more during night duties than during daytime work.
One respondent recalled getting as many as 300 phone calls during one night shift.
Asked whether there was any specialist to supervise them during a night duty, 42.4 percent said, “Usually no specialist is staying at the hospital for supervision.” Another 34.4 percent said specialists never stayed at night for supervision. About 33 percent of the trainee doctors said they felt insecure when a specialist was not around.
If they found it difficult to perform patient care due to the complexity of the patient’s symptoms, they would call a specialist for advice and take care of the patients themselves, 72.5 percent said.
“Since we signed a business agreement with law firm Kohwoo, we have asked for legal advice related to medical litigations. We found that many incidents occurred during night shifts,” KIRA President Lee Seung-woo said.
He went on to say that it was beyond comprehension to see that judges found guilty on trainee physicians who did the first-line care during a night duty, and not guilty on specialists who were responsible for supervision. Judges did not hold the hospital accountable for not providing a safe training environment for interns and residents, Lee said.
Lee claimed that hospitals should limit the number of patients assigned to trainee doctors during night duties and expand the hospitalist system. “I will discuss this with medicine-related groups to demand the government reflect this issue on evaluating hospitals and separately provide state support,” he added.
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