Physicians’ Work Hours and Patient Safety in a Norwegian Context
Authors: Kristin Alstveit Laugaland, Karina Aase
Abstract: There has been growing attention in society to the question of whether physicians’ work hour regulations constitute a challenge to patient safety due to extended work hours. The aim of the current study is to examine the practice of work hour regulations in a Norwegian context and explore possible risk factors by employing a qualitative case study design in a surgical hospital department. The study results emphasise that both framework conditions and work hours in the current work environment must be taken into consideration when assessing the risk of adverse events. Findings show that work hour regulations are violated more or less continuously in the current surgical department, especially during holiday periods. Despite this, the informants value the work load within existing work hour regulations as more influential when explaining the effects on patient safety than the work hour regulations themselves. Contextual factors such as workforce situation, coincidental work tasks, and safety awareness are seen as important framework conditions. We argue that the current practice with extended work hours (>12h) during night shifts constitutes a potential risk factor, a finding that is also supported by international research studies on work hour effects.
Keywords: Physicians, work hours, patient safety, adverse events, contextual factors
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