Study: Sleep-Deprived Doctors Dangerous Behind the Wheel" screams the headline on The Hometown Channel, a internet new service ("Study," 2005). According to this article,"researchers at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston have revisited the topic of intern schedules and found that working very long hospital shifts make young doctors as dangerous behind the wheel as drunks ("Study," 2005). Reading this article leaves one with the conclusion that not only do overworked doctors pose a risk to patients, but are also dangerous on the road.
Meanwhile, in the New England Journal of Medicine, is this headline: "Extended work shifts and the risk of motor vehicle crashes among interns" (Barger et al. 2005). Sounds familiar, but not quite the same impact as the first headline. The researchers conclude that "extended-duration work shifts, which are currently sanctioned by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, pose safety hazards for interns" (Barger et al.,
2005). According to Nolen-Hoeksema, this study meets the criteria as a continuous variable correlation study, comparing the following variables: interns working extended duration shifts, crashes, near-misses, and incidents involving involuntary sleeping (p. 74, 2001). It also a longitudinal study, as the participants were assessed over a period of 13 months. In reviewing reported methodology, results, and conclusions, the researchers appear to have following accepted clinical protocol. They noted the limitations inherent in using self-reporting surveys to asses the participants, and took this into account when drawing their conclusions.
The reporting in the media summary is accurate in the details, yet distorted in the overall impression it gives. It exaggerates and draws conclusions, such as these interns are just as dangerous as drunk drivers, that the researchers refrain from stating. The researchers are much more conservative in their conclusions, and also refrain from stating any...