Why July Matters

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Abstract

Each July, new graduates from premedical, medical, and residency programs, along with junior and midcareer faculty, acclimatize to their changing roles. During this month, overall efficiency, quality, and patient safety may suffer, a problem dubbed the “July effect.” The many transitions that occur in teaching hospitals during July are often implicated as the root cause of this problem. The question, then, of how best to improve the team-based clinical care provided in July remains important. In this Commentary, the authors outline a model that combines the team-based care paradigm with effective leadership, followership, and communication-based strategies and propose some actionable steps.

A key first step to enhancing patient safety in July is improving effective leadership through use of a select group of attendings whose teaching style empowers learners within a framework of close supervision. Second, programmatic efforts to pair these leaders with good followers are needed. Senior residents in July should be selected on their ability to mentor, guide, and support interns. Third, a system of free-flowing, bidirectional communication must be nurtured to ensure optimal outcomes. Adapting strategies from the airlines (e.g., interdisciplinary conferences to discuss optimal patient care approaches; checklists for daily activities such as sign-outs; directed feedback and debriefing techniques emphasizing actionable areas for improvement) is promising and worth studying.

Available data suggest that the “July effect” is real. Developing new and exploring existing approaches for allaying this phenomenon are important areas of further investigation.

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