Canada's medical and surgical residents worked an average of 63.7 hours per week during their last rotation, and believe they can provide 19.2 consecutive hours of safe patient care.
However, over three-quarters of the 2,305 respondents (76.2%) in a survey done for the Canadian Association of Internes and Residents (CAIR) reported that they had made errors at work due to the consecutive number of hours worked, and 18.5% said those had an impact on patient care.
"This is a clear indication that a reduction in the number of consecutive hours worked may be needed to ensure the continued safety of patients and their physicians," CAIR reported in a news release accompanying the results.
The survey also found that more than a third of respondents (34%) had nodded off momentarily while driving because of work-related fatigue, and one-quarter reported they had narrowly avoided a collision while driving after a shift.
The 2012 National Resident Survey, conducted by Nanos Research, found that 70.8% of respondents were confident or somewhat confident about their employment prospects, but more than one-quarter (25.7%) were either not confident or somewhat not confident. Several specialty areas, such as orthopedic and cardiac surgery and radiation oncology, are known to pose employment challenges for new graduates.
"This survey points to the employment challenges that residents in some specialties are having and that the level of concern is widespread," says CAIR President Dr. Simon Moore. "Job prospects are a growing concern for residents, but they should also be a concern for policy-makers."
Pollster Nick Nanos said the results suggested that residents are under a "significant amount of stress" because of "long hours and concern over future job prospects."
The survey also delved into training conditions, and found that almost three-quarters of respondents (72.9%) had faced "inappropriate behaviour" at work, and half of all respondents had been subjected to it by either staff physicians or nursing staff. The most common inappropriate behaviours were yelling, shaming or condescension.
CAIR has more than 8,000 members.