In hospitals, summer is the season when newly minted medical school graduates start their first year of residency, taking on patient care with little hands-on experience. For patients, that means a visit from a doctor who might look young and untested.
To make sure residents ask for help from a senior doctor, more hospitals are developing formal “escalation-of-care” policies with clear guidelines on when it’s time to call one. Residents may fail to ask for help due to overconfidence, lack of knowledge or fear of seeming incompetent, studies show.
Communication breakdowns between residents and the attending physicians who supervise them are common contributors to patient injury. The issue is particularly acute on thinly staffed nights and weekends. That said, studies are mixed as to whether medical errors spike with the arrival of new residents, with some suggesting the risks are higherand others finding no evidence of the so-called “July effect.”