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Residents In Training At Work In The Hospital

Letter from Jean Bjerke

It is important that patients realize when they go to the MeritCare emergency room or MeritCare Hospital in Fargo, they will be seen and treated by medical residents who are still in training. There is an assigned “attending” supervising physician but the resident will order your treatment plan and medications. The resident will make the initial decisions and later these will be reviewed by the attending physician. The assumption is that they are closely supervised, but that is not always the case, especially on weekends and holidays.

You are instructed to sign a consent form and are told it is necessary “to bill your insurance.” MeritCare Hospital does not tell you this form also authorizes medical residents, medical students, and any other medical personnel still in training (anesthesia students, etc.) to determine and provide your medical care.

It is vital that all patients read every word of any consent form and ask questions until you understand. You do have the legal right to cross off any area of the consent with which you do not agree or wish to happen.

Because MeritCare is a teaching hospital and affiliated with the North Dakota School of Medicine, they are “teaching” these residents using the patients/clients of MeritCare Hospital/Clinic and most people are not aware of this fact. Mistakes are made, not all of them life-threatening, but why compromise the medical care of yourself or your family member?

In this era of increasing medical mistakes and medical errors causing alarming harm, prolonged suffering, and even death to the health-care consumer, it is urgent for patients and families to take an active role in their health care. One way to start is not to sign any consent from MeritCare Hospital/Clinic until you understand the total consent, any procedures and who will be performing these procedures.

Jean Bjerke


Source: The Forum - 03/29/2000