Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Housemanship: One Big Rite Without Rights

I'm still a bit numb by HospitalPhoenix's black-bagging (to use a V For Vendetta term) but this is a topic I feel strongly about and want to rant on. So I'm going to let my Medscape blog post on the topic speak for me instead.

In my local papers a debate broke out recently about the treatment of housemen in hospitals. Some people complained that the 34-hour shifts were draconian and amounted to torture. A parent or two who never saw their houseman child during the day spoke out. Then some old doctors came out and supported the system. The term "modern-day slavery" got bandied about a lot. Then I, because I have a big mouth and felt like giving an alternative perspective, wrote in and mentioned the European Working Time Directive. The issue is now mostly resolved. But the fact remains, housemen work long hours but instead of being rewarded with good treatment (and by this I mean a smile now and then) they are tortured in what their seniors insist is a baptism-of-fire-type ritual that every doctor-in-training goes through.

Do read the post and leave your thoughts. Profanity here, nice comments on the Medscape site please. I need my editor to think I'm actually doing something for the site other than just being the goofiest photo there...

Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year, folks!


Spirit of 1976 said...

Admittedly I'm speaking from the far more sedate world of mental health nursing (ahhh, do pass me my pipe and slippers...) but personally I'd rather not have to receive medical treatment from a guy who's falling asleep on his feet.

I can see the point that those insanely long hours enable house officers to learn a lot in a short space of time, but that level of working is just not healthy. You've got to be able to avoid burn-out.

And also, no matter what job you're doing, I firmly believe that you have a right to a life outside of work.

The Angry Medic said...

Agreed, Spirit. No one likes a sleepy doctor. But some old hands will swear that making young doctors sleepy and overworked will prevent them from being so sleepy in future. Experience, say they, and then offer themselves as an example. How do we argue with logic like that?

My letter to the papers has been answered by a doctor in today's paper. He seems strangely reminiscent of Dr Crippen in telling me that my med student viewpoint is distorted by the rose-tinted glasses of idealism. I'll be pasting up the issue here soon.

Anonymous said...

Just stopped in to wish you a Happy Mew Year! Hope you have a great 2007.

Dr Michelle Tempest said...

Most doctors will have worked over the Christmas and New Year long weekends - but I thought I'd pass on my best Christmas wishes and all the very best for the New Year!

Jo said...

ur post really send out the truth from my heart..
being a houseman i worked over 3 hours during oncalls
and 3 times oncalls per week if tht 's a good week.
the government posted me far from my hometown and i was forced to stay at the hostel, lonely and depressed.
no one seemed to appreciate things we do...yet we are the ones who actually run things at the ward and clinics..
considering the pay, we have higher loans to bear !

Jo said...

i mean 36 hours non stop when oncalls