The "July Effect" is a very real phenomenon in teaching hospitals across the country. This is the time when graduates, fresh out of medical school, begin their residencies. It is also when there is a 10 percent increase in preventable, accidental medical errors in hospitals.
Researchers from UC San Diego and UCLA did a recent study and found that out of more than 62 million hospital deaths, 244,388 deaths were caused by accidental medication errors.
According to the study's co-author, David P. Phillips, PhD, medication errors are the second leading cause of accidental and preventable death.
If your parent has to go into the hospital in July, be extra vigilant for all kinds of medical errors, but in particular medication mistakes. This is a time when patients are more at risk for dying in the hospital because of an inadvertent mistake.
5 Steps To Take To Keep Your Parents Safe
- Be your parent's advocate during their entire hospital stay. Oversee and monitor their medications and overall medical care. Get a notebook and take notes on their daily progress, medications, surgeries, procedures and treatments.
- Create a list of your parent's current medications, dosages, how many times a day they are to be administered. Create a description of each medication's appearance and descriptions of labels on IV bags. Medications can look alike and sound alike. Make careful note of the spelling of each name, and shape and color of any pills. List any allergies to medications.
- If there is a new medication that you do not recognize, ask the following questions of the administering medical professional: “I don't recognize that medication. Is that new? What is the name? What is it for?” If something doesn't add up, ask questions. You can request to speak to the patient's primary nurse and/or attending doctor. Remember to be polite and respectful. You are not trying to usurp anyone's authority or expertise—you are simply trying to prevent a medication error.
- Show up during doctors' rounds and have face-to-face meetings with all the doctors involved in your parent's case. Prepare a list of questions with your parent ahead of time. Take notes on the conversations. This not only lets the medical professionals know that your parent has loved ones involved in your care (this increases attention for the patient), but it also gives you the opportunity to go over the exact medications and dosages and any allergies to medications with the attending and primary nurses.
- Create a Patient Safety Checklist and use it while your parent is in the hospital. See "Martine's Patient Safety Checklist" at http://www.criticalconditions.com/Patient-Safety-Checklist.pdf
To read more about the "July Effect," go to