is the hospital any more dangerous in july

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a student in elementary school or graduate school, summer is considered sacrosanct, a time to take a much-needed break from the daily grind and explore nonacademic pursuits. Indeed, most students still have over a month before they have to head back to the classroom.

Interestingly enough, there is at least one group of students for whom school is officially back in session at this time of the year and for whom the learning curve is exceptionally steep: first-year residents.

Indeed, at the majority of hospitals across the U.S., July is traditionally the time of the year when the most senior residents depart for either employment or a fellowship program, more experienced residents are promoted and, of course, new residents come aboard.

In order to demonstrate just how drastic this July turnover actually is, consider that some experts have likened it to the fourth quarter of a football game in which roughly 25 percent of the players are suddenly replaced with rookies and the remaining players move to entirely different positions.

This reality coined the now ubiquitous phrase “the July effect,” meaning hospital patients are at an increased risk of suffering harm — or worse — during these hectic 31 days owing to the shifting positions and flood of new residents.

While research on the reality of the July effect has produced mixed results, patients should at least derive some comfort from the following:

  • The majority of hospitals require first-year residents to take part in extensive training and/or boot camps, and be overseen by a team of experienced physicians, including senior residents and attending physicians.
  • While some studies may show elevated patient fatality rates during the month of July, this may not account for other important factors, such as many more people being on vacation and, of course, the always inherently dangerous Fourth of July holiday.

This doesn’t mean, however, that medical mistakes by first-year residents, senior residents or even attending physicians don’t occur. Indeed, medical negligence can occur at any time of the year and when it does, it’s imperative for an injured patient or their family to know they can seek the justice they deserve.

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