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Why Holidays in the Hospital Put You At Risk of Misdiagnosis

December 12, 2021

Unfortunately, the rate of medical errors and incidents of medical malpractice tend to go up over the holiday season, especially around the holidays themselves. If you find yourself in the hospital or needing medical treatment over the holidays, you should understand why spending the holidays in the hospital is extra risky, as well as what steps you can take to help keep yourself safe. 

Medical Errors Go Up over the Holidays

The six weeks that close out the calendar year sees some of the highest rates of medical errors in hospitals out of any time of the year. Over these six weeks, we have three major holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. Although the holidays are a busy time of year for everyone, what are the reasons for the increase in hospital errors and medical malpractice?

Factors That Make Hospitals Riskier During the Holidays

Many of the factors that tend to make seeking treatment in the hospital a riskier proposition over the holidays are some of the same factors behind the “weekend effect,”a phenomenon that sees higher rates of medical errors and patient deaths in hospitals over the weekend. These factors include:

  • Reduced staffing, as hospitals may try to give as many of their staff as possible the holidays off or to grant requested vacation time over the holidays.
  • More inexperienced staff on duty, as more senior and seasoned staff get priority for taking holidays off or vacation time during the holiday season. Hospitals may also turn to potentially less experienced temporary or per diem staff to help maintain staffing ratios over the holidays.
  • Delays in radiological and laboratory testing, as fewer staff may be on duty to process testing orders. In addition, radiology or lab departments may even be closed in some hospitals on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, or New Year’s Day.
  • Reduced availability of surgical rooms, as surgeons and anesthesiologists take the holidays off. 

Steps You Can Take to Enhance Your Safety as a Hospital Patient

If you are seeking an elective medical procedure or if you can safely delay medical treatment, you might want to consider pushing off treatment until after the New Year. Of course, there are some situations where you may need emergency or immediate medical treatment for a life-threatening condition. If you feel you need to be seen by a doctor as soon as possible, you should by all means go to the hospital, even if on a holiday. But there are tips you can keep in mind to help stay safe and reduce the risk of becoming the victims of errors or medical malpractice in the hospital:

  • If possible, try to have a friend or family member stay with you throughout your hospital stay until discharged. It can be very helpful to have an extra set of eyes and ears or someone to advocate on your behalf, especially if you are distracted by your pain or physical distress, or if you are medicated or sedated.
  • Always ask questions, especially before having medication or a medical procedure administered to you. Ask the administering doctor or nurse what the medication or the procedure is and why it is being administered to you. If you don’t get a satisfactory answer, firmly but politely ask to speak to an attending physician or for a second opinion.
  • If you have testing or scans performed, ask why they are being performed and make sure to regularly follow up to make sure you and your doctor get the results. 
  • If you feel your condition worsening, be polite but firm with the nursing staff to page your doctor. If you are told that your doctor can’t be reached, insist they call another physician. 

Contact A Medical Malpractice Attorney for a Consultation About Your Hospital Error Case in Pennsylvania

Were you or a loved one injured due to medical malpractice in Pennsylvania? Then you need to talk to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible for guidance on how to proceed. The Pittsburgh hospital error attorneys at Berger & Lagnese, LLC are prepared to assist you with your legal claim. We represent victims of negligent surgeons, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists throughout Pennsylvania, including Butler, Cranberry Township, Erie, and Greensburg. Call us today at (412) 471-4300 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation. Our main office is located at 310 Grant St., #720, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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