Compelling encounters between a young Irish doctor and patients in intensive care.
Abbey, a fellow of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine and council member at the Intensive Care Society U.K., writes that her world as a doctor is centered on emotions, and she tells of her experiences through seven emotions that are vital elements of being human: fear, grief, joy, distraction, anger, disgust, and hope. Throughout the book, the author writes with honesty and compassion about her relationships with patients. Each of the seven chapters opens with a relevant quotation from writers such as T.S. Eliot, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and C.S. Lewis, selections indicating that Abbey is a reader as well as a writer. As an intensive care doctor, she cares for many patients who may be dying or may be in some undetermined state between life and death. Abbey explores the strategies for talking to these patients as well as to their families. “Of course ongoing academic achievement and the acquisition of hard skills are paramount to a doctor’s development, but they are not the whole story,” she writes. “Many of the pivotal moments in any doctor’s story are about learning how to talk to people, to understand them and to make yourself understood. Competence is not simply about knowing what is possible, but also about understanding what is right. It is about feeling and, more importantly, about knowing what to do with a feeling.” A text filled with a doctor’s bedside experiences with dozens of vulnerable patients may sound like grim reading, but this is not the case. Abbey’s account is warm and accessible, leaving readers with a feeling of relief that such thoughtful doctors exist and the hope that if one is ever in need of critical care, a wise and caring doctor like her will be by the bedside.
Merits a spot on a list of required reading for medical students.