There were times during my last rotation where I began to understand the need to be at the hospital for extended periods even when one could leave. Not only for the training purposes - as most procedures happened later in the afternoon than earlier - but also for the overall educational quality and responsibility felt towards knowing your patient.
Interestingly, I found it remarkably unnerving to walk onto the unit the next morning after leaving the previous day. I invariably felt completely out of touch with what has happened overnight and scrambled to get the goods before rounds began. Worse still were the weekends were I had 2 straight days off and absolutely dreaded coming back in - not for the work, but entirely from the fear of not knowing what had occurred, who was there, etc, etc, etc. Part of me felt guilty at having time away from the patients I was following as though I was abandoning my role as their "physician". One woman that I covered for over a week recovered enormously overnight and was confused, but talking. We'd never held a conversation and when I went to examine her and see how she was handling the situation she asked, "Where's my doctor?" She was referring to the on-call resident, despite the fact that I was the person who knew her the best and it felt like a shot.
You weren't here, so why should I think you give a damn about me?
This was, for me, the first time that I had really ever felt guilty about leaving. It was also one of the rare times in medical school where I would find myself hanging around longer than necessary just to keep abreast of the situation. Nothing overly dramatic or anywhere near the hours my residents were putting in, but I knew that there was value to be there. I never felt more prepared for rounds and understanding my patient's situation than when I had been on call.
With my rotation officially over today, I feel good that I got a little understanding what the big concern is with residency training and hour restrictions. You learn a lot more doing than reading; and you learn a helluva lot more when you see, do, and read about a procedure, illness, condition that is presented to you in the form of a patient and follow the progression.
Now this is not saying that I completely feel that residents should go back to the insanely long hours they pulled a decade ago - I saw more than enough post-call delirium in my residents to see that sleep deprivation is scary for patient care. What I am implying, though, is that I get the dinosaur's bemoaning the current state, if only just a little more than before.