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Are hospital interns more likely to commit medical malpractice?

When people get injured or contract an illness, their first thought is to go seek medical help. This can be done in a number of ways: checking into a hospital, visiting a clinic, or even calling a hospital help line to speak with a nurse. Patients rely on the knowledge and experience of a doctor to help them recover from whatever ailment they may be dealing with.

But sometimes, the very person who is supposed to help the patient get better actually causes harm. In that situation, there is a possibility of a medical malpractice lawsuit brought against a negligent health care professional. Surrounding this topic, concern had been raised about first-year residents in hospitals and whether patients were at a greater risk of injury.

The clinical director of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority has been addressing the concern that the presence of first-year medical residents, also known as interns, is actually increasing the number of medication errors. Are patients more at risk with first-year residents?

First-year residents are subjected to a rigorous schedule. While they have completed the book-learning portion of medical school, their next several years are spent getting hands-on experience with actual patients. That means that while learning, they are forced to function in high stress situations and life-or-death emergencies. The hours are long and the sleep is little, leaving many first-year residents exhausted.

While this type of environment could lead to a number of mistakes, a doctor at Penn State-Hershey hospital believes that more policies exist now to prevent an increase of mistakes with first-year residents. Some of these policies include mandatory supervision and proficiency tests.

But despite the precautions, medication errors and other mistakes can still happen. These mistakes are often serious and even deadly for a patient. In this situation, a patient can seek compensation for a worsened medical condition by filing a medical malpractice claim.

Source: pennlive.com, "Hospitals take steps to reduce errors among medical residents," David Wenner, 11 July 2011

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