I was bemused by a recent news articled titled Tired Doctors told to Drink More Coffee, from The Courier Mail.
The gist of the article is that some doctor’s are working crazy amounts of shifts back to back, and are often on call with little or no break in between shifts.
Part of the fatigue policy in public hospitals, or a current strategy to cope with this crazy deprivation of a basic human need (sleep), appears to actually be “drink more coffee!”
From the article:
“The Courier-Mail yesterday reported the confessions of junior surgeons and medics whose exhaustion-induced errors had killed or hurt patients during “on-call” shifts of 30 to 80 hours.
But a guidelines document underpinning QH’s Fatigue Risk Management System claims “solutions such as ‘we need more staff’ might not be achievable or effective in managing a fatigue risk.”
Instead, the 102-page document deems the “strategic use of caffeine . . . to be beneficial” as a fatigue fighter for doctors on marathon duties.
“The recommended dosage for a prolonged and significant reduction in sleepiness during a night without sleep has been suggested at 400mg of caffeine . . . equivalent to about five to six cups of coffee,” the document states.”
Wow, interesting stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of caffeine myself, although I’m not so sure it’s the answer to the overworking problem. You can get an interesting picture of the situation by reading these articles:
Overworked doctors endangering patients
We’re killing people, say over-worked doctors
No break for doctors despite girl’s death
Patients dying at the hands of doctors working for days on end
Tired Aussie doctors told to drink more coffee
As far as nurses go, I think that a fair number of nurses do back to back shifts from time to time, though this happens (hopefully) fairly infrequently so that there’s appropriate break time in between shifts.
I know that a huge amount of nurses are coffee / caffeine drinkers also, and I believe the jury is still out over risks/benefits of coffee. When it comes to how much, how often and that kind of thing, it’s probably best to throw the “all things in moderation” line out there. As far as overworking goes, caffeine really is a short term measure. Surely the best thing to counteract tiredness & ensure patient safety is a decent break & a sleep?