A recent survey found trainee doctors’ average weekly working hours went down to 80 hours for the first time since the law limiting the maximum working time of interns and residents took effect in 2016. Their resting time almost doubled.
The Korean Intern Resident Association (KIRA) conducted an online poll on 4,399 trainee physicians at 94 teaching hospitals from Aug. 26 to Sept. 30. The survey showed that their average weekly work hours this year decreased to 80 hours, the legally maximum weekly work time for trainee doctors, from 91.8 hours in 2016.
During the same period, the resting time increased to 10.2 hours from 5.38 hours.
However, KIRA pointed out that trainee physicians’ quality of work did not make much progress. One of the reasons is the growing number of patients per trainee doctor — the average number of patients they had to tend rose from 16.9 in 2016 to 17.8 in 2019. On a night shift, one trainee physician provided care for up to 68.5 patients.
Filling up work for the reduced work hours of trainee physicians varied, depending on the size of the teaching hospital.
While 77 percent of hospitals employing over 500 trainee doctors hired hospitalists to supplement the work, only 21 percent of hospitals with fewer than 100 trainee physicians did so.
One in five interns and residents said it was difficult to get guidance and supervision from specialists when performing a technique on a patient. Forty-five percent was not familiar with the system that allows only those who received medical teaching training to teach junior doctors.
One in 10 trainee doctors said hospitals demanded they pay membership fees for joining and leaving a department.
Many were still exposed to violence within the hospital. About 45 percent of the respondents said patients or guardians had attacked them, and 20.5 percent said the perpetrator was a hospital worker.
Jeong Yoon-sik, PR director at KIRA, said even though the law helped trainee doctors reduce work hours, many hospitals still give demanding work to trainee doctors and pretend to look like they comply with the law by shutting down trainee doctors’ access to the electronic medical record (EMR) system outside work hours.
Many hospitals are not aggressive enough to hire hospitalists and have failed to prepare for reduced residency of internal medicine to three years, he added.
KIRA President Park Ji-hyun said the association would also survey the EMR system shut down outside work hours, satisfaction in the training environment, wages, and vacations.
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