William Lynes, MD
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Lynes W.; The Last Day. Ann Intern Med. 2016;164:631. doi: 10.7326/M15-2341
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2016;164(9):631.
The room was cold and dark as I entered my office that last day. My diploma shone as a damaged image as I pondered the tragic plan, one of a burnt-out physician who could not practice anymore. I loathed that likeness; pathetic, weak, a failure at medicine, my lifelong goal. I had a family to take care of and a loving wife, but I was incapacitated and paralyzed with fear.
Twenty-four hours later, miraculously I was alive, blood covering the floor of my office from the grim sacrifice. My choice to die at my own hands had failed. I informed the operator of my condition. Humiliated, disgraced, I reluctantly was admitted to the hospital, my condition hushed, my wounds dealt with urgently. My secret torture was known: I was a burnt-out physician. Hospital committees would recommend and I would ultimately agree not to practice again. To this day, this feeling of failure is still palpable.
Justin Moore, MD, FACP
Double Arrow Metabolism, LLC
May 4, 2016
Dr. Lynes talks about his selfishness. I think his sharing of these thoughts and events is solid evidence that selfishness is not one of his more prominent features. Exposing such raw, personal memories of such intense thoughts and events in hopes of increasing awareness of physician burnout and suicide is a selfless act if there ever was one. As a physician with some personal history of burnout, Dr. Lynes has my sincere gratitude.
Terry Farrow, MD
Gilled Sciences Inc.
Conflict of Interest:
Gilead Sciences, Inc.,The Permanente Medical Group (Northern California)
Thank you, William
Thank you for so generously and nakedly sharing your feelings which I think some of us can share. We need to be receptive and provide care to our colleagues experiencing the intense emotions involved in doctoring. The culture of medicine makes expressing feelings such as those of Dr. Lynes difficult to share. Sometimes fellow doctors can be the cruelest of critics. I recently tried to assist a colleague in crisis and have had conversations with several others who have had regret over their career choice. I couldn't agree more that physician burn-out and emotional ill-health are probably happening at higher rates than we admit in our clinics and hospitals. We can and should certainly do a better job of taking care of our colleagues.
Happily there are ways out--ways to either change your practice situation or career path or leave clinical medicine. For people used to following a clear path, it's not easy nor straightforward. But staying in a situation you know isn't working is bad for patients and, as important, bad for the burned-out physician. Things changed for the better for me when I recognized the depth of my unhappiness and embarked on a more than two year effort to change my career path.
Thank you for sharing Dr Lynes, I wish you improved health and well-being in the years to come. Glad you are still with us! You might be just the person to help your burned-out colleagues!
William Lynes, MD
May 12, 2016
I want to than Dr's Moore and Farrow, and the half-dozen or so other health care professionals who have emailed me with encouraging notes. It is not easy coming clean so to speak about mental illness and physician burnout. I am glad that I wrote this essay and thank my colleagues for their support.
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Print ISSN: 0003-4819 | Online ISSN: 1539-3704
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