10:21 AM Eastern - Thursday, December 4, 2008

With 30-hour shifts, the doctor is ALWAYS in #default

SEIU Healthcare members understand that long hours and little sleep are a dangerous fact of life for RNs and physicians alike. For years, we've worked to shine a light on the dangers of long hours to patient care and to the well-being of health care workers. We've won some major victories, too. Just this summer, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania nurses scored an important win for patient care, when Gov. Rendell signed into law a bill restricting the practice of mandatory overtime for RNs in Pennsylvania hospitals.


A recent study by the Institute for Medicine (IOM) is a welcome addition to the advocacy work being done by CIR/SEIU Healthcare members to limit extended shifts for residents. You can find more about CIR/SEIU Healthcare's response here: www.cirseiu.org/policy/iomreport


Being fatigued on the job leads to impaired performance and deterioration of skills. No other profession is routinely scheduled to work 30-hour stretches; and no other profession has such a direct impact on peoples' health and well-being. That's why I'm encouraged by the IOM study's evidence supporting a more reasonable 16-hour limit. While it's not as strong a commitment to limiting extended shifts as we had hoped, it's an important addition to the growing chorus surrounding this health care issue.


With an estimated 98,000 patient deaths a year due to medical errors, anything that can be done to bring that number down should be done.  And, as the nation gears up for a critical overhaul of our broken health care system, now is the time to enact these changes.


If you'd like to get involved in SEIU's health care reform efforts, you can start by adding your name to our health care map: http://action.seiu.org/healthcaremap/

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