Day: July 1st, 2007

Timing is everything

Sunday, July 1st, 2007 | All Things

On July 1, thousands of freshly minted physicians, weeks out of medical school, begin their hospital residencies. It’s the day the annual turnover of interns and residents occurs, prompting what is known in teaching hospitals around the country as the “July effect” or “July phenomenon.” Quantifying the phenomenon is challenging – do the newbies make more errors than those who have been on the job a little longer? Or does the extra vigilance by their attending supervisors counterbalance their inexperience? – but even doctors make morbid jokes about it.

According to a recent panel of New York City doctors, another time to avoid the hospital is during shift change – usually 7 to 8AM and 11PM to 1AM – when important information can get lost in the shuffle.

So it was with much apprehension in my heart (and searing, blinding pain in my eye) that I found myself having to visit the emergency room of the largest voluntary teaching hospital in New York State, at the worst time of day, on the worst day of the year. Obviously, one does not get the luxury of scheduling such visits. So after my panicky, tearful wake-up call, B raced into the city in record time, and we were on our way.

I’d been through this before, and suffice it to say: nobody wants to be in the emergency room. If you’re there, it’s because something has gone horribly awry. You’re nervous, vulnerable, and completely dependent on others. Your own miseries are barely distinguishable in the communal distress of the teeming, chaotic exam rooms. It’s a fully humbling and overall wretched experience.

Aside from some misplaced paperwork — which I only learned about the next day — my July 1 visit went as smoothly as I could hope for. Three doctors, a couple of wheelchair rides, and several hours later, I was sent back to my darkened home with a handful of prescriptions and instructions to return to the hospital the following morning. In the meantime: no reading, television watching or Internet usage.

It was going to be a long night.

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