We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

Should You Avoid Hospitals in August, When the Rookie Docs Arrive?

By Brett Israel
Sep 24, 2009 1:59 AMNov 19, 2019 9:26 PM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

"Killing season," a term used to describe the time when junior doctors take over at hospitals, was thought to be just an unsettling joke. However, British

researchers found hospital mortality rates rise by 6 per cent on the first Wednesday in August. Perhaps not coincidentally, that is also the day newly qualified doctors, fresh from medical school, are let loose on the wards of [England's National Health Service] hospitals [Daily Mail].

To arrive at their result,

There could be lots of explanations for the increase, so the authors say their data doesn't mean people should shy away from hospitals during this week, but they do say the increase is statistically significant. The report was published recently in the journal PLoS ONE.

an Imperial College team looked at 300,000 emergency patients admitted to English hospitals between 2000 to 2008. They compared death rates between the first week of August, when new doctors arrive, and the previous week in July [BBC News]

. The study's authors note that past studies looking at mortality rates before and after junior doctors take over did not find any difference. The results could be due to the different types of patients being admitted, but if it turns out to that there is some merit to the "killing season" myth, it could have large implications for how young doctors are turned loose. Related Content: 80beats: Non-Lethal Antibiotics Could Fight “Superbugs” 80beats: Whoops! Anti-Bacterial Wipes Can Spread Disease 80beats: Medical Imaging May Cause Tens of Thousands of Cancers

Image: flickr / [lauren nelson]

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.