Date PostedJanuary 29, 2013

Fatigued Medical Residents at Risk for Traffic Accidents

DoctorWe all rely on doctors to be on the ball when we consult them about our various physical ailments.

A doctor making a mistake is too horrific to contemplate and before we enter hospital for a complex operation we hope that the doctor performing the surgery has had enough sleep the night before.

However a new study at the end of last year by the famous Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, USA has found that the medical residents or trainee doctors in their part of the world are suffering from both fatigue and stress from long working hours that their risk of having a traffic accident is increased.

The has summarised the principal finding from the study:

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., surveyed about 300 residents over the course of their residency and found that about 11 percent were involved in accidents and 43 percent reported nearly getting into a crash during the training.

Residents said the traffic incidents were caused by fatigue and distress, including feelings of burnout or depression, according to the study, which was published Dec. 17 in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Medical residents typically work long, intense shifts as they train to become doctors.

“Just like any other field, residents need their recovery time,” study lead author Dr. Colin West, an internal medicine physician, said in a Mayo Clinic news release. “In order to make good decisions, physicians need to be physically and emotionally well. Residents need to be rested. We don’t want them to have undue amounts of stress.”

The fact that motor vehicle accidents are common among residents brings “the issues of resident fatigue, sleepiness and distress to a new level of priority,” West said. “New interventions designed to address both resident fatigue and distress may be needed to promote patient and resident safety.”

The researchers also asked the residents about how often they had been exposed to patients’ blood and body fluids, and found that about 8 percent reported at least one incident of exposure due to fatigue or stress during their residency.


Fatigue is a problem for all workers and when workers, whether they be doctors, lawyers or truck drivers, get behind the wheel of a car they can be a danger not only to themselves but to everyone that is on the road – pedestrians and road users alike.

Peter Cutforth is a Director at Urban E-Learning, a global elearning and web strategy firm based in George St Brisbane. Peter's interests extend to training, safety and compliance, online marketing, and Mobile Apps.

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