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Work Patterns and Fatigue-Related Risk Among Junior Doctors
  1. Philippa H Gander (p.h.gander{at}
  1. Massey University, New Zealand
    1. Heather M Purnell (h.m.purnell{at}
    1. Massey University, New Zealand
      1. Alexander Garden ({at}
      1. Capital and Coast District Health Board, New Zealand
        1. Alistair Woodward (a.woodward{at}
        1. University of Auckland, New Zealand


          Background To reduce fatigue-related risk among junior doctors, recent initiatives in Europe and USA have introduced limits on work hours. However, research in other industries has highlighted that other aspects of work patterns are important in generating fatigue, in addition to total work hours. The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has proposed a more comprehensive fatigue risk management approach. Aims To evaluate the work patterns of New Zealand junior doctors based on the AMA approach, examining relationships between different aspects of work and fatigue-related outcomes. Methods An anonymous questionnaire mailed to all house officers and registrars addressed demographics, work patterns, sleepiness, fatigue-related clinical errors, and support for coping with work demands. Each participant was assigned a total fatigue risk score combining 10 aspects of work patterns and sleep in the preceding week. Results The response rate was 63% (1366 questionnaires from doctors working ? 40 hours per week). On fatigue measures, 30% of participants scored as excessively sleepy (Epworth Sleepiness Score ? 10), 24 % reported falling asleep driving home since becoming a doctor, 66% had felt close to falling asleep at the wheel in the last 12 months, and 42% recalled a fatigue-related clinical error in the last 6 months. Night work and schedule instability were independently associated with more fatigue measures than was total hours worked, after controlling for demographic factors, The total risk score was a significant independent risk factor for all fatigue measures, in a dose-dependent manner (all p<0.01). Regular access to adequate supervision at work reduced the risk of fatigue on all measures. Conclusions To reduce fatigue-related risk among junior doctors, account must be taken of factors in addition to total hours of work and duration of rest breaks. The AMA fatigue risk assessment model offers a useful example of a more comprehensive approach.

          • fatigue among junior doctors
          • fatigue risk management
          • national fatigue survey
          • work patterns of junior doctors

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