Why do we force our newest doctors to work in intolerable conditions and then lament about medical errors?

surgical resident life We lament about medical errors in hospitals, but we force our newest doctors to work in intolerable conditions: sleep deprived and hungry.  Why do we do that?

That’s the question not explicitly asked in this excellent essay by unasked question in this excellent essay by Jennifer Bernstein on Catapult. The essay goes into the nitty gritty of “The Surgical Resident Life,” showing how the incredible stress and unreasonable hours we expect these people to work lead to alcoholism.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way.  Hospitals could bring in more support for these new doctors.  They could pay more of them to reduce the workloads.  Doing so would cost money but would unquestionably reduce the medical errors.

Regardless, the next time one of these residents slips and hurts somebody, we should all remember that the system put that doctor in an impossible position.  Our efforts to prevent harm (and our anger) should be directed at that system.