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A difficult read; at times depressing; at times frightening; at times uplifting. A story of a what seemed to be a Square peg in a round hole and then the joy of finding your own round hole. I have experienced some of the scenarios personally and found these insightful. Empathy is the greatest characteristic ; some say it cannot be taught but perhaps experience of this environment does teach this, due to the sheer need for it, together with a need to develop, in tandem, a harder outer shell in order to protect yourself. The book also shows that it is difficult to be empathetic to everyone all of the time; those perceived as uncaring also need empathy. This is life in the raw; for junior doctors, please don’t give up for all our sakes!
Joanna Cannon is a published novelist and the quality of the writing surpasses that of most medical memoirs. It’s very much an emotional journey rather than giving much insight into the work of a junior doctor. I found it interesting and moving but there are other, similar, books that resonated with me more.
What happens when a delicate piece of Meissen china is placed in a noisy kitchen full of earthenware plates? Yes, it is shocked, bewildered and fears it will be broken. So in the end it retreats, but leaves an indelible imprint behind. Yes, read this book, but do not be put off by a career in medicine.
“I learned that returning a life to someone very often has nothing to do with restoring a heartbeat.”
In this memoir, Joanna Cannon invites readers to experience key moments of her time in medical school and as a junior doctor. This quick read has short chapters but they provide insights on her highs and lows, as well as the patients that have stayed with her. I found her writing style engaging and I could easily picture what Joanna was describing.
“Burnout is an unlikely phrase, because it implies that the effects are loud and obvious, raging like a fire for everyone to see. Most burnout, however, is quiet and remains unseen. It exists behind a still and mirrored surface, deep, out of reach, unnoticed by everyone - even, sometimes, by the one who is burning.”
While some of the factors that contributed to her ‘breaking’ are fairly clear in my mind, the details of the ‘mending’ remain fairly vague to me. Sure, I know that being able to work in psychiatry, which was the reason Joanna was in medical school in the first place, was integral to her recovery. However, unlike the lead up to her burnout, the recovery process didn’t really come alive on the page for me.
I was impressed by Joanna’s ability to hold on to her compassion, even as her work as a junior doctor was taking a physical and psychological toll on her. What I will take away from this read, though, is the kindness and courage of so many of her patients, despite their circumstances.