July: Good For Fireworks, Bad For Hospital Patients

It’s July, which means burgers and dogs by the dozens, probably along with a brew or two. But you might want to make sure the food you’re cooking out is up to snuff, because it looks like July is the worst month of the year to be a patient at a teaching hospital.

According to a new study in the Journal of Internal Medicine, the rate of fatal medication errors at teaching hospitals spikes in July, up 10% of where it should be.

The study makes a correlation between the death surge and the huge number of new residents beginning work at these hospitals each July.

However, the researchers also say it’s possible that patient behavior might also play a factor in the increased number of errors, with increased alcohol consumption causing negative reactions to medication. They add that tourists do not always receive or seek out the best medical care when they get sick.

Whatever the cause, the study says that the spike in medication errors only occurs in July and only at teaching hospitals.

So obviously, if you’re sick this July, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention. But it wouldn’t hurt to double-check the name of the medication on the bag that’s hooked up to your IV, and be sure to give a full and honest medical history to the doctors.

Why July is the worst month to be hospitalized [Chicago Tribune]


Edit Your Comment

  1. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    I like how they released this study last month,before July, instead of waiting until August.

  2. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    July and August are also really dangerous in terms of driving, especially on rural roads. Some of it can be attributed to alcohol consumption, but also because people are a bit more complacent during the summer and there are more people out and about during July 4.

    Remember, everyone, don’t drink and drive, and don’t let your friends do it either. If you live in the DC area, the Sober Ride program is up and running this year.

    Sober Ride: http://www.wrap.org/soberride/ Call 1-800-200-TAXI or if you’re on AT&T, #TAXI (8294). Don’t get in the car if you’ve had alcohol. If you’re on the road and you spot a car whose driver may be under the influence, call state or county police.

  3. pjorg says:

    Everybody’s “the new guy” sometimes. Even doctors.

  4. mythago says:

    I wonder if it might also have to do with staffing, rather than doctors per se – that the less experienced nurses, aides and support staff get stuck working on the holiday weekend while people with more seniority are able to get those days off.

    Speaking from totally anecdotal experience, last time I was in a hospital I found that the quality of care went from “great” to “OMG get me out of here before the kill me” when the weekend night staff started.

  5. BreninMA says:

    If you do end up at a teaching hospital in July (and August since a lot of the senior attendings are still on vacation) and you have a concern, ask for the senior house officer, chief resident or floor attending physician. New proctoring laws require much more supervision than ever before and those people are often solely dedicated to assisting the new interns and residents. An “intern” is a first year, “resident” second year; then there are third year residents and fellows.

    Always take notes or have someone with you to do so, DON’T be afraid to ask questions and never hesitate to ask a medical student to review your case with the proctor or attending physician. You HAVE to advocate for yourself and you are entitled to all the answers you need. THEY work for YOU.

    And don’t ever hesitate to ask them to wash their hands if you don’t see them do it. Nosocomial infections can be prevalent especially in the summer months when medical students aren’t yet in the handwashing groove. If they are offended, tough nuts!

    The GOOD news is that all new medical students are desperately trying to establish themselves as good doctors to their attendings and proctors so they never be more interested in “getting it right” than at the beginning of their careers.

    • pjorg says:

      I think you mean “resident” and not “medical student” in this context. Residents have graduated medical school and are MDs; med students have not.

  6. gparlett says:

    I’ve always been wary of teaching hospitals for this very reason… I know Doctors need to learn, but I’d prefer they experiment on someone else. I’d rather get an experienced doctor for my money.

    • pjorg says:

      There’s an argument that you’re actually getting better (or at least, “safer”) care from a teaching hospital for the most part, since your case is being observed and treatment being approved by a whole chain of command and not just one guy.

  7. RandomHookup says:

    I spent the night at a teaching hospital for indigestion that looked sorta like a heart attack. No fewer than 6 “doctors” dropped in to check my vitals and get my case history.

  8. PsiCop says:

    Along these lines … according to an article in this morning’s Hartford Courant, the deadliest driving holiday each year — nationally — is the Fourth of July. New Year’s is the second-deadliest, again, nationally.

    The Courant‘s (and my) state of Connecticut, however, has these two flipped … in the Land of Steady Habits, New Year’s is the deadliest holiday, followed by July 4th. Go figure.

  9. btrotta says:

    You can always spot the new residents in the ED, they’re the ones with an encyclopedia’s worth of drug guides, ACLS cards, and assessment guides in their pockets, look petrified, and haven’t figured out that the nurses really run the place. The second years look a little less terrified and have all their references on a pda and have a state of detente with the nurses.The third yearbook exasperated because they still have to check with a chief or an attending before they can give orders to change a bed pan, and they’ve learned that the nurses will be the ones to bail them out more often than not. And no, I’m not a nurse.

  10. Dr.Wang says:

    all hospitals are teaching hospitals. All of them. Every last one.

  11. Whyhello says:

    Just remember to be honest when giving your doctors your information. If you’re drunk tell them you are don’t make them assume. As many others have said its no big deal to be asked to be seen by the attending, so if you feel uncomfortable ask.

    This is an interesting post, and has a Decemberists reference!

  12. thehomelessguy says:

    They try to make up for it by having all the nurses ect. on “high alert.” But mistakes can happen. The key thing is for the newly minted doctors to know their limits and not be afraid of asking for help/stating they are uncomfortable doing something.

  13. Jueycruiser says:

    I work at a teaching hospital, and from what I’ve seen, every July when the new residents come on, they tend to try to thin out the stacks a little bit, send stable patients home and keep the census low so they aren’t overwhelmed. Plus, I worked OT holiday weekend and there were 2+ attendings there on both shifts kinda hanging out, making sure no crazy shit went down. So the feeling I get is that the hospital admin understands this, and they do what they can to make it a smooth transition.