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The Doctor Is Sick: Study Shows Junior Doctors Are Sleep Deprived


A study driven by the glaring problem of sleep deprivation in doctors has revealed shocking issues in the Maltese health system. Dr Alexander Clayman, a psychiatric trainee, in reading for a Masters in Public Health published, "Sleepiness in post-duty house officers" with an entailing call to hospital authorities for things to change.

The Study

The study was a cross sectional analysis, involving a population of 139 house officers, that is junior doctors, measuring their sleepiness pre and post duty. One of the first findings of the study was that generally house officers have a duty of 30-32 hours and generally sleep at hospital.

To clarify, as things stand, junior doctors work 6 days a week. With additional duties 1-4 times per week. A duty in itself spans 24 hours. Post-duty is additional hours from the preceding 24. Scheduled breaks consist of 6 hours for basic needs.


The repercussions of this are functional impairment with involuntary errors for example in prescribing and voluntary ones out of tiredness. Furthermore, poor empathy and medical errors were experienced by patients. A small example of an error is taking blood samples from the wrong patients

Apart from being a danger to patients, the unhealthy lifestyle poses a danger to the doctors themselves who often find themselves nodding off at the wheel of their car home.


A statement from the Health Ministry stated the post-duty hours are purely the doctor’s prerogative for the sake of training, continuity of patient care or simply for financial reasons. There is no link to understaffing. Furthermore, doctors can be “on call from home”

Do you think this will be the wake-up call the Maltese Health System needs?

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