Do We Communicate Enough?

A Better Safety Net for Young Doctors

A Harvard program coaches new medical residents to ask veteran doctors for help more often, and older doctors to offer that help more readily

 Summer is often considered to be the worst time to be a hospital patient. Why? New medical residents, due to inexperience, often hesitate to call in more senior doctors to treat sick patients. WSJ’s Laura Landro and Brigham and Young Hospital’s Dr. Douglas Smink join Tanya Rivero to explain how the culture inside the hospital is bring changed. Illustration: Kyle T. Webster

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.”

http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-better-safety-net-for-young-doctors-1470661201

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