Inside Doctoring: Stages and Outcomes in the Professional Development of Physicians

By Robert H. Coombs; D. Scott May et al. | Go to book overview

Residency Stress Leading to Suicide: A Mother's View

Erika H. Rosemark

My daughter's internship, characterized by 6 months of extreme stress and exhaustion, ended in her suicide at the age of 26. This is her story as related to me and some of her friends through correspondence and personal contact.

On July 2, 1983, I drove from my home in Sherman Oaks, California to visit our daughter, Barbara, who had started her internship three weeks earlier. She had found an apartment that she liked about a mile from the hospital and seemed pleased with the way things were shaping up. Although she knew that this was going to be a difficult year, she told me how much she liked being there. As we toured the area, she commented how the tree-lined streets, the green parks and bike paths appealed to her great love for the outdoors. "I'm fortunate to be here," she said. "This is one of the best internship programs in Family Practice in the country. I like the people and feel comfortable with their approach to the practice of medicine. I'm learning a lot."

Barbara had shown us the printed outline for her Orientation Week and I, too, was impressed with the amount of thoughtful planning that had been done to prepare these young doctors for this rigorous year at the University Medical Center. I came away from that visit feeling very positive about Barbara's year as an intern. She was enthusiastic about her work, and with what she was learning, was near old friends and finding new ones. She loved her new surroundings.

The only thing that concerned me was that when she added up the number of hours she had worked that week, it totaled one hundred and eight. "What are they trying to do to you?" I asked in dismay. Now, after the loss of my only daughter, I ask the same

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