There are two schools of thought with regards to sleep (as pertaining to us medical professionals). There is the school of thought where they understand that the human body requires sleep to work. That without sleep, the human body makes mistakes. And that it is impossible to function at peak efficiency throughout the day IF you keep scrimping on sleep.
Then there is the reality of the situation. Doctors are ALWAYS going to be in short supply. Doctors take ages and a lot of money to make and maintain. It’s an investment that is paid back through reduced sick leave, mortality and disability. But the doctor is a direct cash black hole.
How do you stretch doctors? Either you poach them from third world nations with promises of cash which is a problematic practice but one that will always occur due to the high salaries of doctors in first world nations and standards of living. Added to which third world doctors are often heavily entrenched in practical medicine which produces a faster work ethic due to a relative surety born out seeing a lot of cases of diseases often considered rare in western society. Or you force your doctors to work longer hours.
The UK has one of the longest work hours for junior doctors in the EU. Often racking up to 60 hours a week. Which is not as bad as it can be. The USA’s hell year has often racked up nearly double those hours. I do around 60 hours a week normally out here. I believe in my internship I will end up doing close to 100. Sleep is for the weak.
The reason for that is the idea that if you can perform above average during sleep deprivation then you can do anything. You are pushed to the breaking point so that you know you can perform. It’s the same logic for why special forces train while sleep deprived. Yes, accidents can occur during this time period. You are more likely to fuck up. But how do you balance between the need to be pushed to the absolute limit of human endurance and the need for safety? You cannot train doctors without patients.
The new schedules are a good thing. A straight 16 hour shift is ridiculously gruelling (The SAS or Green Berets on a 16 hour exercise can sit down once in a while. I have had days where my 10 hour shifts were done standing up and missing meals) and the 8 hours guaranteed downtime is vital for some well needed shut eye.
However, I am not so lucky. My day as it is looks like this. Bed at midnight to 1:00 AM, wake up at 530 AM. Transit at 630 AM to be at the hospital by 7. I am posted from 7 till 5. I am usually back just before 6 and do this sometimes on saturdays too. In my internship year I will have to work overnights on this schedule (AKA from 7 AM to 7 AM) or be at the hospital for 24 hours…
Not really looking forward to that. But it’s what needs doing. So spare a thought for your local doc. It’s not easing being a hippocrat.