In recent years, intern architects have compared themselves to resident doctors — exploited workers whose licensure system requires them to work insane hours for incredibly low pay, exempt from overtime.

In recent years, intern architects have compared themselves to resident doctors — exploited workers whose licensure system requires them to work insane hours for incredibly low pay, exempt from overtime.

With the threat of governmental intervention (and after a federal class action lawsuit) the medical profession’s regulation arm passed requirements limiting the number of hours doctors in training can work.

As of this month, medical residents may not work more than 80 hours a week or spend more than 24 straight hours taking care of patients. They can spend six more hours finishing paperwork or handing off cases, but nothing involving medical procedures. Previously, residents had worked up to 120 hours a week, with occasional 36-hour shifts. Research has shown that more than 24 hours of wakefulness leads to a deterioration of cognitive function equivalent to the effects of having a blood alcohol level of 0.1 percent. (You’re considered a drunk driver in many states at .08.)

The powerful incentive to adhere to the new rules is potential loss of accreditation. Teaching hospitals must demonstrate residents are not exceeding stipulated hours or risk losing their degree-granting privileges.

Paul Jung, a Johns Hopkins fellow and former med student filed suit in 2002, alleging the “match day” system, which requires medical students to accept whatever hospital selects them from the student’s wish list, violated antitrust laws. “Resident physicians must accept these conditions because they have no alternative,” the suit said. “No other employer will hire them and completing residency is required for specialty certification, a necessity in the practice of modern medicine.”