Based at least in part on concerns for patient safety and evidence that long shifts are associated with an increased risk of physician error, residents' and fellows' work hours have been strictly limited for the past several years. Little attention has been paid, however, to excessive attending physician shift duration, although there seems to be no reason to assume that this common practice poses any less risk to patients. Potential justifications for allowing attending physicians to work without hourly limits include physician autonomy, workforce shortages in certain communities or subspecialties, continuity of care, and financial considerations. None of these clearly justify the apparent increased risk to patients, with the exception in some settings of workforce shortage. In many hospital settings, the practice of allowing attending physicians to work with no limit on shift duration could pose an unnecessary risk to patients.

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