Late May and early June is traditionally a time of great joy in the medical training community as a new batch of medical students graduate and residents finish whatever year they are in. This turns to abject terror in July as fresh new residents are given life and death responsibilities for the first time. A new study from the University of California shows that the fear of the so called “July Effect” is not entirely misplaced. Their analysis showed that the month of July corresponds with a significant (10%) spike in fatal medication errors in teaching hospitals. This result was compared to areas without teaching hospitals, which did not show a comparable effect.
From the Journal of General Internal Medicine abstract:
Inside medical institutions, in counties containing teaching hospitals, fatal medication errors spiked by 10% in July and in no other month [JR = 1.10 (1.06–1.14)]. In contrast, there was no July spike in counties without teaching hospitals. The greater the concentration of teaching hospitals in a region, the greater the July spike (r = .80; P = .005). These findings held only for medication errors, not for other causes of death.
We found a significant July spike in fatal medication errors inside medical institutions. After assessing competing explanations, we concluded that the July mortality spike results at least partly from changes associated with the arrival of new medical residents.
A story on the article at ABC News quotes a Dr. David Orentlicher who recommends that, knowing that this increased risk for medication errors exists in July, increased supervision or medtech solutions should be implemented.
Journal of General Internal Medicine: A July Spike in Fatal Medication Errors: A Possible Effect of New Medical Residents
ABC News: The ‘July Effect’: Worst Month For Fatal Hospital Errors, Study Finds…