Doctor Fatigue Raises Car Accident Risk: Study

Doctor fatigue isn't just a potential risk factor for accidents at the hospital -- it could be the cause of car accidents after long shifts, too, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic found that 11 percent of medical interns included in the study reported getting into a car accident while in training, and 43 percent reported having a close call.

"The mere fact that motor vehicle incidents are common among residents brings the issues of resident fatigue, sleepiness and distress to a new level of priority," study researcher Dr. Colin West, M.D., Ph.D., who is an internal medicine physician at the Mayo Clinic, said in a statement. "New interventions designed to address both resident fatigue and distress may be needed to promote patient and resident safety."

The study, published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, included about 300 residents at the Mayo Clinic who completed surveys every quarter between 2007 and 2011 (while they were training). Researchers found that those who reported having the near-misses or who reported actually getting in car accidents were linked with factors including fatigue, sleepiness, burnout and depression.

Fatigue as doctors complete their medical residencies is nothing new. A study published earlier this year in the Archives of Surgery showed that for nearly half of their waking hours, surgery residents were operating on less than 100 percent of their full mental capacity -- 80 percent, to be exact.

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