Under the latest regulations being implemented, among other things, residents must have 10 hours off between duty shifts and must have eight hours free of work between duty hours.
Residents also must not be scheduled for more than six consecutive nights of night duty; have 24 hours off per 7-day period, with maximum duty hours of 80 per week, averaged over 4 weeks, with 88 hours for selected programs. Moonlighting is not permitted.
Last September, the advocacy group Public Citizen filed a petition with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requesting that the agency regulate resident physician and subspecialty resident physician hours.
"Depending on the type of residency, physicians-in-training can work anywhere from 60 to 100 or more hours a week, sometimes without a day off for two weeks or more," the Public Citizen petition states.
Because OSHA, which is part of the Department of Labor, is charged with ensuring the safety and health of workers, it has jurisdiction over the matter, Public Citizen and other groups that joined in the petition say.
In 2002, OSHA denied a petition by Public Citizen, the Committee of Internists and Residents (CIR), and American Medical Student Association, citing the voluntary adoption of standards by ACGME.
Referring to its current petition, Sidney Wolfe, MD, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, said in a statement, "The dangerously excessive number of hours resident physicians are currently allowed to work is a similarly toxic exposure that OSHA has the authority to regulate and reduce in order to protect these physicians from harm."