Does the “July Effect” really increase the likelihood of medical errors?
You may have heard doctors joke about the dangers of getting sick in July, but did you know that is a real concern among medical facilities? The month of July is a "changing of the guard" so to speak, with newly graduated medical students beginning unsupervised healthcare work. This change does not come without its dangers, however. Harvard Medical School has reported on the higher likelihood of medical errors, calling it "The July Effect."
What is The July Effect?
The July Effect is the phenomena that takes place when newly licensed doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals establish their first unsupervised roles in a new hospital. These new professionals are just becoming familiar with working in a new hospital setting and taking full, unaided responsibility for their decisions.
These individuals receive years of training and hands-on experience in hospitals; however, once they graduate, they are likely unsupervised and have no one there to assist them if they make an error.
Is there a real danger associated with July hospital stays?
The proof of this concern is unclear, with some studies showing no correlation between new staff and patient health, while others find a higher rate of error or injury in specific cases. For example, a study published in the Circulation medical journal found the risk to be minor for normal patients, but higher for severely ill patients.
This could be because patients with critical health concerns may suffer more grave consequences if a new doctor makes an error. The chances of patient death due to a doctor's error are relatively low but do increase with the severity of the patient's condition.
There is also a difference in regards to teaching hospitals versus non-teaching hospitals. In other months, teaching hospitals usually have a lower risk of patient death due to error. In July, the teaching hospitals rise to the risk level of non-teaching hospitals because the student training has concluded, and the new graduates are less supervised.
Protecting Yourself Against The July Effect
Most people do not have the ability to put off medical care until later in the year. If your condition demands a hospital visit in July, there are some ways you can reduce your risk of a medical error.
- Ask questions regarding your care and medications. If something does not seem right, speak up.
- Make sure your hospital staff identifies you by name before performing any procedure or administering medication.
- If you do not feel comfortable with a doctor, let a staff member know, and see if someone else can treat you.
- Bring a friend or family member with you to act as another pair of eyes to catch errors or ask questions you might not consider.
If you or a loved one suffered injury in the hospital, the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, P.C. will help you review your hospital stay and care to determine if a medical error caused your condition to worsen or lead to the death of a loved one. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment: 404-474-0804.
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