Although we trust doctors and other healthcare professionals to make us better when we are sick, medical malpractice occurs much more frequently than a lot of people realize. Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional renders treatment that fails to comply with the applicable standard of care. The standard of care is generally defined as the treatment decisions and actions that other providers of similar training and experience would undertake in similar circumstances. Medical malpractice can include surgical error, misdiagnosis, medication errors, or hospital-acquired infections.
However, rates of medical malpractice are not even throughout the year. In fact, more cases of medical malpractice occur in the summer compared to the other seasons. But what are the reasons for this increased risk of medical malpractice?
How the “July Effect” Impacts Medical Malpractice Rates
Medical experts believe that the increase in medical malpractice during the summer is due to something called the “July Effect.” The July Effect is a term used to describe a confluence of factors that can lead to errors. First, recent medical school graduates report to teaching hospitals to begin their residency by July. Therefore, hospitals that have residency programs get an influx of new, inexperienced doctors. New residents have to adjust to working in a new hospital, often in a new city, while learning how to use the hospital’s computer systems and other procedures. Residents, even new ones, are often given substantial patient loads to handle and may end up getting less sleep as a result.
The potential for errors by new resident physicians is compounded by the fact that more experienced doctors and nursing staff take vacation time during the summer. As a result, new residents may have less oversight right at the time that they need the most guidance.
Other Factors for the Increase in Medical Malpractice Rates in Summer
Some of the other factors besides the July Effect that can increase the risk of medical malpractice in the summer include:
- Lower staffing levels as staff tend to take summer vacations
- Increased staff fatigue as those on duty need to pick up extra work from those staff who are on vacation
- Higher hospital occupancy as the summer also sees higher rates of accidents such as auto accidents, workplace accidents, swimming accidents, and sports and recreational accidents
How to Reduce Your Risk of Harm from Medical Malpractice
To help protect yourself from medical malpractice if you find yourself in the hospital during the summer, tips to follow include:
- If you can, bring an advocate with you to the hospital. They can act as a second set of eyes and ears and can make sure that your needs are being met, especially if you cannot communicate on your own
- If you are going in for surgery or another invasive procedure, ensure that the correct site is visibly marked on your body
- If you are brought medication, always ask who the medication is intended for/have the nurse confirm your identity and ask what the medication is intended to treat
- Try to make sure that your hospital room is kept clean, which also includes making sure that you have regularly changed bedsheets and that instruments to be used have been cleaned
Contact A Medical Malpractice Attorney for a Consultation About Your Case in Pennsylvania
Were you or a loved one injured due to medical malpractice in Pennsylvania? Then you need to talk to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible for guidance on how to proceed. The Pittsburgh medical malpractice attorneys at Matzus Law LLC are prepared to assist you with your legal claim. We represent victims of negligent surgeons, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists throughout Pennsylvania, including Butler, Cranberry Township, Greensburg, and Washington. Call us today at (412) 206-5300 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation. Our main office is located at 310 Grant St., Suite 3210, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.