The Disappearing Doctors

Jane R. Gilsdorf


Health Affairs. 2008;27(3):850-854. 

In This Article

Keeping An Eye On The Clock

We continue our rounds and enter the staff room, where an intern, seated at a laptop computer, is feverishly keyboarding a progress note that documents the current status and treatment plans of one of his patients.

A senior resident enters. "What are you doing here?" she asks the intern.

"Finishing up my notes."

"You can't do that. You've got to get out of here."

"But, the notes…"

"I'll do them for you. Make a list."

"I also wanted to check the rash on the kid with Kawasaki disease…"

"You can't. You've got to go home."

Apparently the intern in the staff room is up against the limits of the work rules and has been told to leave the hospital. There's no wiggle room. The ACGME requires training programs to report the actual hours spent in the hospital; it leaves it up to the training programs to figure out how to get the work done in the time allotted. If the intern continues on duty beyond the dictates of the rules, our training program might be cited for noncompliance. The penalty for too many citations: probation for the training program or possibly withdrawing the program's ACGME accreditation. A training program on probation or without accreditation has an extremely hard time attracting excellent resident physicians.

We proceed to the next ward. There we meet another resident who, earlier, had submitted a request for a PID consultation.

"Let's talk about the boy admitted last night with the neck mass," I say to her.

"Yeah…tell me what to do with him," she answers.

"Rather than my telling you what to do, let's think it through together so you'll understand how to do work-ups of kids with cervical lymphadenopathy."

"I don't have time for that.Please, Dr. G,just tell me what to do."


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