Reader Mail

Docs need more than sleep pods

Regarding the Big in Japan column in the Sept. 9 edition, “Losing sleep over modern-day issues,” as a busy emergency doctor in Australia that finds satisfactory sleep elusive, I’d welcome scheduled naps in a workplace sleep pod like those at capsule hotels in Japan. This bubble of dark quiet isolation could yet prove its worth in insulating against the constant foot traffic and early morning leaf blowing and mowing within earshot of my on-call room.

Sadly band-aid solutions such as sleep pods do not address systemic issues such as inadequate staffing to cope with high demand, which then impose risk to patients. Doctors endure a medley of marathon shifts with no restful intermission and are expected to make up shortfalls for sick colleagues.

We need to restrict work hours to improve patient safety in hospitals and reduce risk of accidents for fatigued doctors driving home. A power nap within a sleep pod may temporize the menace posed by impaired concentration and prolonged reaction times to doctors and road users after sign off from long shifts.

However the intrusion imposed by long and unsociable shifts on a doctor’s, their partner’s and family’s quality of life impinges on the sustainability of medical careers. Surely patients would much rather see well-rested, more cheerful and happier doctors. Sleep pods will only help if doctors are allowed to use them uninterrupted.

Stopgap measures, however, will do nothing to fix the deep neglect of staffing faults that fail to protect doctor and patient welfare.

JOSEPH TING
ADJUNCT ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH AND SOCIAL WORK QUEENSLAND UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY BRISBANE AUSTRALIA

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.