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The July Effect: Fact or Fiction?


Is the July Effect Real?

Many people believe that medical errors—and thus, patient mortality—increase in July due to inexperienced medical practitioners (i.e. recent graduates, residents, interns, etc.) entering the workforce. But is this fact or fiction? Let’s explore what we know about the July Effect and whether medical malpractice incidents increase during this month.

What Is the July Effect?

The July Effect (or Phenomenon) refers to an increase in medical errors and patient mortality due to inexperienced interns and residents entering the clinical workforce. This effect mostly applies to teaching hospitals as these institutions take on more medical residents than other hospitals.

A teaching hospital is a medical institution that combines patient care with the education and training of medical students, residents, and other healthcare professionals. These hospitals play a crucial role in medical education by providing a practical, hands-on learning environment where future doctors can observe and participate in patient care under the supervision of experienced physicians. Teaching hospitals also differ from other medical institutions in that they have a strong focus on research, innovation, and advancing medical knowledge.

What Is a Medical Resident in a Hospital Setting?

A resident in a hospital setting is an individual who is assigned to a specific unit or area and is responsible for providing care and advice to patients. Residents are typically medical school graduates or interns who are undergoing further education and training to become certified physicians and specialists.

Resident physicians have the same medical privileges as other physicians at the hospital, including diagnosing illnesses, prescribing medications, and performing certain procedures. They work under the supervision of attending physicians and faculty members. Residents learn how to:

  • manage their own patient caseloads,
  • handle complex cases with experienced colleagues, and
  • take part in rounds with other healthcare providers in their specialty.

Residents are highly skilled medical professionals, holding either an MD or a DO degree. During the residency period of their training, they draw on knowledge gained from traditional and advanced education to provide medical services in hospitals or clinics under the supervision of top clinicians. Residents lack full licensure but may practice medicine with oversight from a leading professional physician who is responsible for their instruction during this rigorous internship stage.

With a variety of criteria determining admission into teaching hospitals, the residency application process is highly competitive. From USMLE scores to letters of recommendation and medical school performance evaluations – even taking a perceived interest in the program or specialty into consideration - there are many factors playing an important role when it comes to gaining acceptance.

Is The July Effect Fact or Fiction?

The July Effect continues to be a controversial topic, as there are varying opinions on whether it is indeed true or false. Some studies have suggested that there is an increased risk of medical errors and mortality during this time, while others have not been able to provide any valid evidence for its existence.

In 2011, medical field professionals conducted a systemic review on the effects of trainee changeover at the end of the academic year on patient outcomes. While they did find a correlation between an increase in patient mortality and year-end physician changeovers, their findings were limited as they did not know how much risk there was, if changing shifts affect people's health, or if certain models are better or worse.

Researchers who analyzed 2011-2015 data from over 450 academic medical centers and affiliated hospitals throughout the United States found that the July Effect was purely fictional. In their 2016 article, they concluded that there is not sufficient evidence to prove that medical errors or patient mortality increase when new residents enter the workforce.

Some experts argue that any increase in medical errors could be attributed to other factors such as changes in staffing levels or higher numbers of patients being admitted in the summer months. Furthermore, most hospitals have implemented measures designed to reduce any potential impact of inexperienced doctors entering their clinical workforce each year such as providing additional training and supervision for new staff members.

Suing for Medical Malpractice by an Intern or Resident

In New York, medical residents can be held liable for medical malpractice if they fail to meet the appropriate standard of care. Medical residents are often supervised by attending physicians, who may also be held liable for malpractice if they fail to adequately supervise the resident or are otherwise negligent in their duties.

Attending physicians have a duty to ensure that medical residents under their supervision are properly trained and competent to perform their duties. If an attending physician is found to have been negligent in their supervision, they may be held jointly liable for any harm caused by the medical resident's malpractice.

To prove medical malpractice, a plaintiff must establish the following four elements:

  • Duty. The healthcare professional owed a duty of care to the patient.
  • Breach. The healthcare professional breached that duty by failing to adhere to the accepted standard of care.
  • Causation. The breach of duty directly caused the patient's injury or harm.
  • Damages. The patient suffered damages because of the injury or harm.

In addition to facing financial consequences, if found liable, residents can also face disciplinary action, such as fines, license suspension, or license revocation. Medical malpractice liability can also have an impact on a resident’s ability to find future employment.

Consult with Our Medical Malpractice Attorney

While the July Effect is believed to be over-sensationalized and not fully scientifically supported, medical patients can still suffer injuries because of a resident, intern, or other medical staff’s negligence. If you or a loved one suffers an injury because of a resident’s malpractice, the Law Offices of Charles R. Gueli can help you understand your legal rights and options. Once you retain our services, our attorney can:

  • Calculate your damages
  • Collect evidence
  • Minimize liability
  • Handle case legalities
  • Fight to receive the best possible case outcome

Call (516) 628-6402 to get started on your case today.

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