I have some friends still in residency and I've been discussing the new intern work hour restrictions with them. In case you haven't heard, the new ACGME rules restrict interns to working more than 16 hours per shift.
When I was an intern, we did 30 hour calls. After being awake for 30 hours, my brain was really fried, and like studies have shown, I both felt and acted slightly drunk. So I agree that 30 hour calls are not a great idea.
My residency program, trying to be progressive, switched the interns to 16 hour calls at the end of my intern year. So I have some experience with this.
Funnily enough, as much as we hated the 30 hour calls, we didn't like the idea of switching. We didn't like the idea of doing hand-offs and had come to believe that there was education in following a patient through their first 24 hours after admission. Plus we got to be post-call the next day, which was especially nice when we had an easy call where we got 5-6 hours of sleep.
Unfortunately, the 16 hour shifts were kind of a disaster. The big problem was that the interns couldn't get their work done in 16 hours. So instead of leaving by 10PM, they would end up leaving at midnight or later, and not get the requisite 8 hours off before returning to work.... and then have to put in a full day of work the next day.
And it only got worse when the new interns started, who were more slower and more inefficient.
Ultimately, I think the 16 hour shifts are a good idea, but I don't know if it will necessarily make life easier for interns. Unless programs are really strict about getting interns home after 16 hours, I suspect that there are going to be a lot of interns who end up basically working most of the night and then not even being post-call the next day.