16-Hour Shifts, But Not a Real Worker?

Source: Sarah Jaffe, In These Times, Working ITT blog, October 23, 2013

Resident physicians work long, grueling hours as they finish their medical training. Eighty hours a week or more is typical. During that time, under the supervision of an attending physician, they have major responsibilities—making medical decisions, treating patients and performing surgeries…. For that, the residents are typically paid $40,000 to $50,000 a year. Hospitals get a great deal: Residents are required to do between three and six years of training depending on their speciality, and while they’re doing that training, they’re a lot cheaper than a hospitalist, who might make $200,000. And the promise of that future fat salary keeps residents hustling through these broke, overworked years. It’s a recipe for exhaustion and exploitation that led Graff and his colleagues to think a union could help. He sees the union as an opportunity for residents to speak to each other, compare problems, and negotiate with the hospital over common issues rather than struggling alone….

…Healthcare workers, who are held to a standard of selfless care, face a particular form of pushback when they make demands for themselves. Administrators often say that asking for shorter hours or better pay shortchanges patients, who are the reason healthcare workers went into the field in the first place. Yet overworked, stressed doctors can’t be good for patient care either…