Although no one wants to spend the holidays in the hospital, the unfortunate reality is that medical emergencies won’t wait until the new year. However, if you go to the hospital during the holiday season, you might receive a lower level of care than you might otherwise receive during another time of the year. There are several factors that can make hospitals less safe during the holidays. But if you need to seek medical care during the season, there are steps you can take to help keep yourself safe. 

Patients Experience Worse Outcomes During the Holidays

Unlike most other businesses that can close during the holidays, hospitals need to be open and operating 24/7. However, hospital workers want to spend the holidays with their family and friends just like any other worker. Thus, hospitals often run on minimal staff and shut down certain services such as radiology services or laboratory testing to give as many of their workers the holiday off. But the reduced capacity of hospitals during the holidays can lead to less ideal patient care outcomes. 

Why Are Hospitals Less Safe During the Holidays?

There are a couple of theories about why hospitals can be less safe during the holidays. One line of thinking theorized that people tend to suffer worse illnesses during the holiday season. Rates of communicable diseases such as influenza and COVID-19 increase during the holidays and winter, potentially hospitalizing individuals in fragile health. People may also engage in riskier behaviors during the holidays that land them in the hospital, such as carelessness in the kitchen when cooking holiday meals or drinking and driving after holiday parties. 

Another line of thinking focuses on the circumstances in the hospital. Because hospitals must remain open for the holidays, they trim down their staff and close certain diagnostic services to increase the number of staff who can take the holiday off from work. In addition, more senior, experienced staff will usually get to take holidays off, leaving less-experienced staff to man the hospital. This can result in longer waiting times to be seen at the hospital or to obtain a diagnosis. 

How to Keep Yourself Safe If You Need to Go to the Hospital Over the Holidays

However, going to the hospital cannot be avoided if you suffer serious injury or experience a medical emergency. If you do need to go to the hospital over the holidays, here are a few tips that can help keep you safe from potentially substandard care:

  • If you have your choice of hospitals, try to go to one that rotates holiday staff coverage, keeps some senior staff on hand to balance out less-experienced staffers, and maintains a reasonable nurse/physician-to-patient ratio. 
  • Bring a list of your current medical conditions and medications
  • Have a family member or friend come with you to serve as a second set of eyes and ears, especially if you are distracted by physical pain or if you need to be sedated
  • Always ask questions before a nurse administers medication – what is the medication? who is it for? why do I need this medication?
  • Do not hesitate to ask for a second opinion if you are unsure about the initial diagnosis or treatment plan you have been given

Contact A Medical Malpractice Attorney for a Consultation About Your Hospital Negligence Case in New Jersey

Were you or a loved one injured due to medical malpractice in New Jersey? Then you need to talk to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible for guidance on how to proceed. The Rochelle Park hospital negligence attorneys at the Epstein Law Firm, P.A. are prepared to assist you with your legal claim. We represent victims of negligent surgeons, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists throughout New Jersey, including Mahwah, Paramus, Ridgewood, and Newark. Call us today at 201-231-7847 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation. Our main office is located at 340 West Passaic St., Rochelle Park, NJ 07762.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.