Residents: The Perils and Promise of Educating Young Doctorsby David Ewing Duncan
This expose of the inner workings of America's medical training programs is both a stirring cry for reform of a health care system that endangers all of our lives and a collection of tense and terrifying stories of real life-or-death drama.
As the husband of an overstressed, overworked, and overtired resident in pediatrics, Duncan (Hernando de Sota, 1995, etc.) saw firsthand the impact our present residency system had on one doctor. Here he looks at the bigger picture: how it affects not just doctors but patients and society in general. For four years he followed hospital residents on call, keeping records of their actions, attitudes, hours, supervision, and patient outcomes; he also interviewed dozens of doctors, medical educators, patients, and nurses. The result is an anecdote-filled account of what's wrong with the system and how it came to be the way it is. Where statistics are available, he cites them, but one of the flaws of the present system is its failure to collect hard data on its own level of safety or effectiveness. Where reforms have been madeas in New York State, where the famous Libby Zion case led to legislation restricting the number of hours residents can workhe describes them, but these are few and far between. Duncan is persuasive in his argument that a system that once worked fairly well when medical knowledge was limited now drops inexperienced and minimally supervised young physicians into complex, difficult situations, that it overworks and underpays them, and that it too often fails to protect patients from the hazards of treatment by sleep-deprived and undersupervised residents. Concluding with a warning that the very survival of our nation's teaching hospitals is being threatened as managed care reshapes the medical marketplace, Duncan offers no solutions to that problem but has some practical suggestions for revamping residency programs.
An up-close and sobering picture of medical education's imperfections.
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