The Physician in the Emergency Room is Working
“Eight hours for work, eight hours for sleep, eight hours for what we will!” This popular slogan began in the 1880s in the United States. The dream of the eight hour workday has come to fruition for many workers, but plenty of people still face days where there is little time for the sleep, never mind the leisure articulated in that slogan.
Recently, there is some hope for progress for resident physicians. Long considered students, unprotected by labor and employment laws, residents have faced long hours and little protection. On January 18, the U.S. Supreme Court’s changed that convenient definition of student-status of residential physicians.
The court ruling upholds the IRS’ determination that resident physicians should pay Social Security taxes. This distinction adds to the case that these residents are workers and should have the protections the labor movement secured for workers.
According to a press release by Dr. Sidney Wolfe of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, “Exhausted resident physicians are at increased risk of being in a car crash and suffering from depression, pregnancy complications and needle sticks – not to mention the susceptibility to medical errors, which can adversely affect patients, research shows.”
Surely all people have the right to a decent night’s sleep and a work environment that doesn’t cause wide-spread depression, but the cause of overworked resident physicians certainly seems an easy one to organize around. Who wants the person treating them to be exhausted and distressed?