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Is July a hot month for medical mistakes?

Going to the hospital for any reason can be upsetting. A person is likely nervous or scared about the medical issue in the first place, but patients in Florida may also worry that a doctor is not experienced or up-to-date on a particular procedure. In fact, many people refer to something called the "July effect" that may be a factor in many cases of medical malpractice.

During the month of July, many teaching hospitals experience a significant shift in experienced doctors. New interns are starting their new jobs. These interns are fresh out of school and have little or no experience to rely on in the hospital room. At the same time, some of the most senior residents move out of their training roles, creating an environment of inexperienced doctors.

Because of these considerable transitions, people say, "Don't get sick in July." The common assumption is that inexperience leads to medical mistakes. While this is certainly not always true, there are studies that support this theory in part. Depending on the procedure, a person having surgery in July may have a higher risk of suffering from complications.

More specifically, a person who is going to have surgery for spine-related cancer may want to aim for a June or August appointment instead of July. One study suggests that these patients are significantly more likely to experience surgical complications after the procedure in July. More than 80 percent of these patients are more likely to die from their complications.

Whether the July effect is real or not, there are always benefits to having a more experienced and engaged doctor. Even if a doctor is not very experienced, though, he or she may have a better grasp on current methods and treatments than older doctors. Either way, a physician needs to be objective, educated and careful in any month.

When a mistake is made, whether it comes from carelessness or inexperience, the patient is the one who ultimately suffers from this negligence. The repercussions of a medical mistake can vary widely, from a minor inconvenience to a fatal complication. It is important that victims of medical malpractice hold the hospital or doctor responsible for the error. A lawsuit and penalty may prevent the same mistake from happening again during any time of year.

Source: CNN, "The 'July effect': Why experienced doctors may not deliver the best care," Zachary F. Meisel and Jesse M. Pines, July 17, 2012

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