Monday, January 11, 2016

Stein's "Is It Safe For Medical Residents To Work 30-Hour Shifts?"

This story describes an 1) an efficacy study that 2) touches on some I/O/Health psychology research and 3) has gained the unwanted attention of government regulatory agencies charged with protecting research participants.  

The study described in this story is an efficacy study that questions a decision made by the 2003 Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. Specifically, this decision capped the number of hours that first-year medical student can work at 80/week and a maximum shift of 16 hours. The PIs want to test whether or not these limits improve resident performance and patient safety. They are doing so by assigning medical students to either 16-hour maximum shifts or 30-hour maximum shifts. However, the research participants didn't have the option to opt out of this research. Hence, an investigation by the federal government.

So, this is interesting and relevant to the teaching of statistics, research methods, I/O, and health psychology for a number of reasons.

1) As an I/O instructor, it is nice to double dip with a research methods example that studies an I/O topic (shift work/night shift and employee well-being).

2) Efficacy research must be conducted because intuition isn't always right. Here, they question whether a 30-hour shift is really worse than multiple 16-hour night shifts over the course of a week. The PIs argue that the longer shifts lead to more consistent care (your doctor doesn't change in the middle of your care), which may lead to fewer mistakes and better patient care.

3) This multi-location study looked at two different conditions: maximum 16-hour shift versus maximum 30-hour shifts.

4) None of the medical residents or their patients consented to be part of this research study nor were the medical students able to opt out without leaving their residency. The research is being investigated by the federal government, even though it was classified as "minimal risk" (and they use that applicable IRB term in the story).