July, New Interns and Hospital Mistakes. Heads up Pregnant Moms!June 30th is traditionally a day of celebration for most senior residents. It’s the last day of their residency training and the beginning of new careers. I remember that day well. I was the chief resident on-call and gratefully managed to end the night without any disasters. However, in the midst of my glee, I lost my keys – all of them — and to this day, more than 25 years later, I still don’t remember how I made it home.

July 1st is an entirely different matter. It’s the day that graduating medical students step into their role as physicians. They are called “Doctor” for the first time and expected to take all of their knowledge learned in medical school and apply it for the purpose of diagnosing and healing. It’s a very scary time both for the patient and doctor-in-training but with a little patience and some patient-savvy, both should do just fine.

Interns (aka first-year physicians) usually do what’s called the “scut” work – the blood draws, the history and physical exams) and following up on lab results. Here are a few things you can do to help the intern and protect yourself:

  • Make sure the intern identifies you by name before you allow him or her to exam you. Chart mix-ups with wrong names can happen and make you vulnerable to receiving someone else’s treatment, medication and sometimes even the wrong surgical procedure
  • Do not allow more than one blood draw. If the intern doesn’t get your blood with the “first-stick”, ask for someone else to do it.
  • If you’re admitted in labor, ask whether the baby’s head is up or down. A breech (feet-first) baby requires special management by a highly skilled physicians.
  • Ask whether your physician or midwife has been notified of your admission. Labor rooms are busy in July and staff members get distracted and forget to make that important call.

These a just a few suggestions and look for more in my new book, How to Stay on Top of Your Pregnancy (and Make Sure That Others Do the same) in the near future.