To the Editor:
I was not surprised to read that Yale’s surgery residency program was in danger of losing its accreditation. I wondered, though, whether the problems identified by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Management are unique to a single program at a single school, or whether overworked residents and inadequate training may be found at other institutions. I suspect that Yale’s example is merely symptomatic of a faulty system that underlies our medical schools and hospitals.
The working conditions of residents are completely unacceptable. Given the fact that residents have just received their medical degrees and are relatively inexperienced, it is ludicrous to expect them to learn effectively and also provide patients with high-quality treatment while working one hundred hours a week with only a few hours of sleep. After 24 hours without sleep, a person’s cognitive function is equal to that of someone with a 0.1 percent blood alcohol level. Residents would not be permitted to drive in such a state; but they may be responsible for performing surgery for twelve more hours!
As both a prospective doctor and patient, I hope that all medical residency programs are scrutinized with the utmost degree of unbiased, thorough investigation. If working conditions are found to be unacceptable, harsh measures should be taken. Only then can we be proud of our nation’s system of medical care.
Esther Knapp ’03
October 30, 2002