A physician friend of mine once told me to avoid teaching hospitals in
July. Why? Because that’s when teaching hospitals get a whole new
roster of newbie medical residents. Now, I’m all about education
and training, but do I want to be the guinea pig for these fresh-from-the-classroom
residents? According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, this phenomenon
is known as the “July effect.”
While some studies report the July effect is pretty much false, others
have found evidence the July effect may be true. The University of California
at San Diego and University of California at Los Angeles investigated
the occurrence of fatal medication errors.
The supposition was that medical residents would have a say in a patient’s
medication. The researchers studied death certificates from 1979-2006,
which numbered more than 244,000, and found a 10 percent increase in fatal
medication errors in teaching hospitals in July. The study was published
in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
The study did not include information on non-fatal medication errors nor
did it discover an increase in other deaths, but it does provide some
food for thought. What do you think? Will you stay away from hospitals in July?