Column: A 70 hour week is way too much

Long hours and sleepless nights must be eradicated for those in the medical field. Photo courtesy of Flickr/Creative Commons

Whether you have a family member who is a doctor, you aspire to be one, you watch Grey’s Anatomy or any combination of the aforementioned, it is a well-known fact that doctors often work long, stressful hours. The field of medicine is already quite taxing; doctors are responsible for the lives and livelihoods of their patients. Long hours put a great strain on the doctors, and are detrimental to the patients.

The number of hours that doctors work must be regulated more carefully than it is today. Doctors cannot work 70 hours per week and be expected to remain completely attentive without making any mistakes or getting overwhelmed by the amount of work expected from them.

When doctors are overwhelmed it creates burnout, which often leads to a decrease in productivity and leads to mistakes being made.

There is a positive correlation between how overwhelmed doctors are and how many errors they make. The specialized doctors that reported making the most errors were radiologists, neurosurgeons and emergency room doctors. These specialties happen to have some of the most stressed and overworked doctors.

There are emergency cases in which a certain doctor must be paged, however, measures must be taken so that doctors are not working 70 hours a week, every week.

Many surgeons today have such packed schedules that they even have overlapping surgeries, where they begin a surgery and then leave the patient in the care of another capable surgeon who can finish the procedure. The surgeon then goes to another operating room (O.R.) to begin surgery on another patient.

Overlapping surgeries are unsafe for more vulnerable patients that need a surgeon’s full attention. Many patients whose surgeries overlap with another patient’s surgery have a greater risk for post-operative complications, such as heart-attack, pneumonia or, in severe cases, death.

Many of these overlapping surgeries end up lasting longer than they are supposed to, which brings us back to our initial problem: the sheer number of hours that the surgeons are working.

There should be a sufficient amount of rest time between two surgeries so that the surgeon’s full attention can be focused on each individual surgery, rather than be divided between both surgeries. This would prevent many of the complications that arise from overlapping surgeries and would decrease the time that the surgeon spends in the operating room, thus decreasing their stress.

Not only is this a question of overworking doctors, but it also encompasses mental health. When doctors are overworked and make mistakes that cost patients their lives, the doctors’ mental health is sacrificed. When doctors make mistakes, they become more vulnerable to depression.

Whether it is some kind of governmental legislation or a rule that each hospital sets doctors’ work weeks cannot be this long and stressful.

In the future, the number of hours that doctors work per week should be greatly regulated. This will be beneficial to both patients and doctors alike, as patients will be prone to less complications, and doctors can get the rest that they deserve in order to help both their physical and mental health.


Anika Veeraraghav is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at anika.veeraraghav@uconn.edu.