Why are many hospitals more dangerous to patients during holidays?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced some tips for staying healthy over the holidays. It’s always good to keep safety in mind, but around holidays it’s an extra good idea not to land in a hospital. Before I explain why, though, here are the CDC’s common-sense tips:

• Wash your hands.

• Stay warm.

• Manage stress.

• Travel safely.

• Avoid smoking or being around smokers.

• Get your check-ups and vaccinations.

• Watch children.

• Prevent injuries.

• Prepare and handle food safely.

• Eat healthy and have some physical activities.

In my experience as a Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer, it’s interesting to think how many times the stories of new clients at Painter Law Firm have begun with words like, “On Thanksgiving Day…” or “Over the Christmas break…”

Some people view holidays as a good time to have an elective surgery, with the idea that they already have time off from work that they can use for recovery. In my opinion—shared by many health experts—holidays are one of the worst times to be hospitalized.

Senior doctors and nurses often have first dibs on picking vacation days, so they’re usually nowhere to be found during major holidays. That leaves less experienced personnel on hand in hospitals to take care of patients.

Then think about it. Those health care providers on the bottom rung may experience stress or distraction by being at work instead of home, which can sometimes spread to the quality of their work.

As a former hospital administrator, I know that many hospitals operate on reduced or even barebones staff during major holidays. That means delays for CT scans and MRI scans and getting to surgery because of reduced personnel.

Sometimes, though, it’s simply unavoidable to need health care over the holidays. And hospitals, physicians, and nurses are required to meet the same standard of care during holiday versus non-holiday periods. Here are some things that you can do to increase patient safety during holiday hospitalizations:

• Bring a family or friend who can stay with and advocate for you.

• Avoid the risk of medication errors by bringing a list of all your prescribed and over-the-counter medications with you to the hospital to share with the nursing and medical staffs.

• Ask questions and for explanations. The squeaky wheel gets the grease even in hospitals. Share the details of what brought you to the hospital with each nurse and physician involved in your care. Don’t presume that they’ve reviewed your medical record or anything else before seeing you.

• When a test is ordered, follow-up and ask your doctors and nurses for the results and what it means.

• If your condition is moving in the wrong direction, ask your nurse to notify the doctor. If you believe that your nurse is unresponsive, disinterested, or distracted, ask to speak to the charge nurse or a nursing supervisor.

• Be aware of the role of each doctor who comes to see you. Is it a resident or fellow (still in training) or an attending (a fully trained doctor who supervises residents and fellows, and is in charge of making final care decisions)? What is the area of specialization?

• If you disagree with care decisions or being discharged, ask to speak with the attending physician.

If you’ve been seriously injured because of care provided in a hospital setting, then contact a top-rated Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer for help in investigating your potential case.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.