Is the hospital July phenomenon a myth?

“Don’t go to the hospital in July.”

That’s the prevailing public perception, since that’s when new resident-physicians begin their hospital training. And indeed, there have been studies from Australia and England showing a higher rate of death and adverse events during this time.

But what about in the United States?

Recent data isn’t so conclusive. A piece from American Medical News points to a recent study from the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, which concludes that “there are no differences for in-hospital mortality rates, number of days patients spent in intensive care units or on ventilator support, or minutes spent undergoing resuscitation for trauma patients treated in July compared with other months.”

Another study from 2003 looked at over 4,000 tumor operations nationwide, and found no difference in adverse events when comparing July to other months.

One reason for this finding is the increased focus on patient safety and transparency on medical errors. Resident doctors and medical students are now more closely supervised by attending physicians than ever before. That safety net is probably what contributes to a smoother transition when freshly minted doctors take care of patients for the first time.

So, you shouldn’t be scared about getting sick in the summer months.

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