Most surgeons come from bad backgrounds

Surgeons discuss working hours

Berlin - Working hours in surgery are also a topic of discussion within the specialist society, the German Society for Surgery (DGCH). The background to this is that clinicians can work between 60 and 80 hours per week. Doctors' associations are therefore repeatedly calling for shorter working hours and compensation for leisure time. According to the DGCH, young surgeons also complain of too long and labor-intensive shifts.

However, experts fear that the quality of specialist training will decline with shorter shifts and that patient care will also suffer - this has now been confirmed by a US study. “In addition to sound theoretical specialist knowledge, experience and practice are the most important training content for a competent surgeon. It is therefore necessary for prospective specialists to experience as many interventions as possible, said DGCH Secretary General Hans-Joachim Meyer. In order to relieve interns, the professional association recommends a clearly structured training curriculum and a sensible distribution of tasks.

The new discussion is triggered by a study in the specialist journal Annals of Surgery (2014; 259: 1041-1053). According to this, a reduction in the working hours of surgeons benefits neither medical training nor the patient. Patients with complex diseases in particular are at increased risk of dangerous complications.

The reason: information was lost when doctors frequently change shifts. "The labor-intensive training and the poor compatibility of work and family make surgery an unattractive subject for many prospective doctors," says Peter Vogt, explaining the dilemma. He is President of the DGCH and Director of the Clinic for Plastic, Hand and Reconstructive Surgery at the Hannover Medical School. Nonetheless, the research shows that shorter working hours did not improve the situation: In surveys, more than half of the participants said that they felt just as overtired when they worked shorter shifts.

"Of course, it is important to avoid overloading the assistant doctors," emphasizes Vogt. However, he considers it questionable whether service cuts alone will contribute to this. "It would be at least as important that the continuing education curriculum in Germany has a new and uniform structure," emphasizes the DGCH President.

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