Doctors opinions on their working hours- M3 India connects with doctors [Part 1]
M3 India Newsdesk Aug 04, 2017
Inherent nature of medical profession entails round-the-clock service and unsocial working hours.
Our current survey aimed to probe what, according to the doctors, is the best way forward and whether restricting doctors working hours is pragmatic. We attempted to understand the Indian doctors’ views of this situation and invited suggestions via an online survey.
This survey aimed at understanding the current working hours of Indian doctor’s and their views on capping the working hours.
The survey carried 10 structured questions for the Indian medical professionals. The doctors were requested to respond voluntarily over a period of 2 weeks. A total of 241 doctors responded to the online questionnaire. The average age group of the respondents was 30 -70 years. The respondents belonged to varied geographical locations across India, ranging from metro cities to smaller towns and tier 2 cities.
8-10 working hours per day is a common norm with most Indian doctors. About 25% doctors reported 10 hours of daily working while another 25% doctors reported 8 hours of daily working. 20% of the respondents also reported that they worked approximately 12 hours a day. Working without weekly breaks is a common trend among Indian doctors. Close to 30 % of the respondents reported that they worked for all the days of a month. Another 28% of the doctors responded saying they work for at least 27 to 28 days a month.
To analyse, over one fourth of the doctors work over 11 hours daily without weekends off.
Though doctors have a divided opinion on the ideal working hours for a medical professional, the doctor community largely believes that the current working hours are appropriate. Close to 40% of the responding doctors believe that their working hours are only a little above the ideal number of working hours for medical professionals. Close to 30 % of respondents believe that their working hours are appropriate and have no complaints. From the total respondents, above 30% respondents feel that their working hours are much longer than the ideal number of working hours for medical professionals.
Capping of working hours for the medical professionals
The responding doctors welcome the idea of fixing a cap on the working hours of medical professionals. 66% doctors agree that capping the working hours of doctors is a good idea. A very small percentage (4.6%) of the respondents seem to disagree with the concept of putting a cap on the working hours of the doctors.
When we asked the doctors if capping the working hours of doctors is likely to impact patient outcomes, a large percentage (61%) of the responding doctors agreed that this is likely to decrease the number of medical errors and cited that “fatigue negatively impacts accuracy, speed and clinical judgement of the doctors.”
Why Doctors disagree or agree?
Some of the senior doctors (age bracket 50-60 years) disagreed, as they pointed out that medical profession is “not 9-4 kind of job”. They responded saying “There should not be any cap on working hours because it's a noble profession, we have to serve needy patients all the time.” Some doctors feel this is not the best way forward and it will restrict the doctors from rendering their duties to the fullest. Doctors also responded saying "You cannot refuse to see a sick patient just because your time is up." Doctors who disgreed with the idea of restricted working hours for medical professionals also share a view point about the safety of patients, they responded, "some duties of a doctor cannot be delegated.Doctors need to get used to a routine of being available round-the-clock."
Some respondents also pointed out the fact that such a cap may not be always pragmatic. The specialities pointed out by doctors in this context were – cardiology and surgery.
The doctors who agreed with the idea of capping working hours for medical professionals cited positive outcomes such as “better patient care”, reduced chances of medical errors’, ‘more time to upgrade medical knowledge.”
Among respondents who agreed with the idea of restricted working hours for doctors cited reasons such as, "better efficiency", " better clinical decision-making capability" and "better quality of care." Doctors stated that fatigued and stressed medical professionals could be a safety hazard too. Some respondents pointed out that"doctors are humans too and need rest", while some others said, " Like any other profession, a doctor too, needs time for himself." We also had respondents saying, "Capping is required for a sound physical and mental health of doctors."Some of our respondents were of the opinion that capping working hours was a good idea because it would then leave the doctors with more time to upgrade their skills and update their knowledge.
What do young Doctors say?
It would be interesting to note that some of our younger respondents falling in the age bracket of 30 -39 years shared their disappointment and termed the current situation “unfair” and felt that the doctors are “taken for granted”, “not paid for working extra hours” and “do not get enough time to look after their own family and their own health”
The very young doctors, in the age bracket of 20-29 years responded saying that they were “overworked in residency period” and “could not have any social life.” Few other young respondents highlighted the need to cap working hours by pointing out to more severe outcomes of long working hours such as “compromised patient care” and impaired efficiency and ability to “make decisions”
Stay tuned to Part 2
Part 2 of this summary lists expert suggestions and ideas shared by the doctor community of India.
We have presented the data and facts as they are without generalizing the results as a reflection of the views of entire Indian doctor population. The demographic profile of the survey participants [shown above] may differ from the population of all Indian Doctors. Also, limiting the sample to the Internet channel only may introduce bias in the results. We also urge that the findings should not be interpreted as implying cause and effect.
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