The Fatigue Factor

At 2am in the morning, J. saw his MO-on-call fall asleep at the counter. Wanting to let him get a bit more rest, he quietly went to do his changes without disturbing him.

At 3am in the morning, J. sees another MO having little “micro-sleeps”, zoning out in the middle of taking a history from a new admission.

The next morning, J. sees a fellow HO fall asleep in the middle of a discharge summary.

Barely getting enough sleep, it makes you wonder how they find time to keep up to date on the latest medical knowledge. Congratulations, these are your doctors

Good news, however, TTSH, following in the steps of NUH, following in the steps of Western hospitals, is implementing shift work for MOs, which will hopefully be the first step in putting an end to 30-hour working shifts (30 hours? only? 32-38 is more common). After all, people who’ve been awake 24 hours have reaction times similar to people with blood alcohol levels over the legal limit.

Hmmm… and that’s the guy with the needle, the scalpel, the pen ordering your medications. Brr… scary.

Don’t worry, though, most doctors are well-trained in operating safely (though suboptimally) with chronic sleep deprivation.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by hopeful oncologist on October 19, 2008 at 10:57 am

    Well, this article here describes the shift and sleeping patterns of housemen, MOs and registrars in SGH. Is it representative of TTSH and NUH? The latter have far longer shifts than the first two groups, but of course, they have more sleep on call.


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