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Researchers Find No ‘July Effect’ in Neurosurgery

pulse-trace-600x300 Student teachers have it tough. They’ve done their course work. They’ve spent hours observing in the classroom and assisting lead teachers.

Then comes the moment when, for the first time, they have to step in front of a classroom and manage it from beginning to end. They have to remember everything they’ve been taught, while quickly learning to deal with real-world classroom situations on the fly. Those first few weeks of teaching can be harrowing, until the fledgling teacher hits her stride.

This is a scenario we see play out in many professions—stress and uncertainty as new trainees step into the job they’ve been preparing for.

So what happens when medical students take their first steps as residents?

Each July newly minted doctors who have graduated from medical school start their first year as resident physicians. As new residents, they take on greater responsibility for making decisions about patient care.

The stakes are pretty high—a medical resident holds lives in her hands. You might wonder, does quality of care take a dip when the new residents come on the job? The theory that there might be problems in medical care when new residents take over is called the “July effect.”

A group of researchers, including Dr. E. Sander Connolly, Vice Chairman of Neurosurgery at the Columbia University Medical Center Department of Neurosurgery, and Columbia University medical student Blake E.S. Taylor, set out to determine if there might be any truth to the “July effect” in the field of neurosurgery.

The researchers examined the cases of thousands of adult neurosurgery patients, both at academic medical centers where residents were part of the team, and at community-based hospitals where no residents were involved.

They broke down the data into quarters, comparing patient outcomes in the first quarter of the year (July through September, with new residents) with patient outcomes in the fourth quarter of the year (April through June, with experienced residents).

After analyzing all the data, they found that there is no evidence that adult neurosurgery patients have a greater risk of complications in July. In other words, quality of care does not seem to suffer when new neurosurgery residents come on the job. The “July effect” doesn’t seem to exist.

The researchers believe that lack of a “July effect” can probably be attributed to excellent education and training for medical students and residents. Medical student Taylor says, “It appears that neurosurgical training programs are providing residents with excellent clinical and surgical education without compromising patient care.”

Learn more about Dr. E. Sander Connolly at his bio page here.

Learn more about Columbia University’s neurosurgical residency program here.

Image Credit: © publicdomainpictures/pixabay

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