The July Effect – Avoid the Hospital in High Summer

February 23, 2017

Let’s face it, no one ever really wants to go to the hospital, and for most of us choosing the time of a hospital visit isn’t even possible, but, if you do have the option to pick your time for, say, elective surgery, don’t do it in July.

In North America, July is the month when new graduates from medical school begin their work at teaching hospitals, at the same time that the experienced medical personnel on staff – doctors, nurses, and even technicians – tend to go on their summer vacations. Toss in the Independence Day holiday, and you’ve got a scheduling phenomenon known as the “July Effect,” which results in a greater-than-average number of medical mishaps – especially at teaching hospitals.

What sorts of mishaps are we talking about? Most common are errors in prescriptions for medications – either inaccurate instructions for use, or completely wrong medications in the bottle. Errors in processing health insurance paperwork also increase. Interestingly, surgical errors do not spike in July, though the popular blog LifeHacker suggests that this is because new residents are not generally allowed to perform actual operations.

July might be the worst time to head to the hospital, but if you want the best possible care, consider avoiding holidays, weekends, and evenings no matter what month it is, because the most experienced doctors and nurses usually have those times off.