While ER doctors are the most common callers, many other doctors are in need of a break. Compared to physicians on call, 24 Hour on call physicians make 36% more errors than other doctors. They are six times more likely to make serious diagnostic mistakes. ER doctors also experience 2.3 times higher rates of car accidents. Despite these facts, many new medicines and medical procedures are being adopted and approved on questionable data. If you find yourself on 24 Hour call, you may want to think twice before signing up.
In Quebec, a resident physician recently filed a grievance against the practice of 24-hour on-call shifts. This resulted in a string of legal cases. A new collective agreement is in the works between the government and the Federation des medicins resident du Québec. While it is still a long way away, some institutions have started to consider a 16-hour on-call shift. Changing from 24-hour on call to a sixteen-hour shift would not interfere with a resident’s rotation.
A 24-hour on-call schedule is also more consistent with resident rotations. In addition, the schedule is more flexible, giving residents more time for family and other pursuits. Additionally, residents are less distracted and more productive when doctors are not on call all the time. And while 24-hour shifts are less disruptive for patients, they allow physicians to spend more time with their families. If you work as an on-call physician, you may be wondering if a twenty-hour shift is right for you.
The decision to move from a twenty-four-hour shift to a sixteen-hour on-call schedule is a good one for the profession and for the residents. However, residents in other provinces will continue to monitor the changes in Quebec closely. This article is not a statement of policy, but rather a report of the views of current family medicine residents. So, go ahead and take a minute to share your thoughts!