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My Memoir Navigating Canada's Healthcare System

by Pat Zehr

Pub Date: Aug. 16th, 2022
ISBN: 9781039143876
Publisher: FriesenPress

In this memoir, a retired physician shares four decades of joys and agonies as a practitioner and consumer of Canadian health care.

In 1978, Zehr was a nurse at a hospital in Yellowknife, the capital city of Canada’s Northwest Territories region, which served all the Inuit and Dene Indigenous settlements in the area. During a frantic case when she assisted in saving the life of a 6-month-old baby, she recognized an intense desire to pursue a career as a doctor. Even as a child growing up as the eldest of three in Ontario, the author, an enthusiastic learner, knew she wanted to be in a “helping profession” in a “clinical and hands-on” industry. She fondly recalls her mother alleviating her stressful younger years with long walks and talks as well as instilling in her an early appreciation for music, particularly an enduring love for Paul McCartney and the Beatles, a passion that would last a lifetime. Zehr’s career track involved years of registered nurse training in the 1970s, which she generously shares in chapters filled with anecdotal episodes featuring a panoply of pediatric patients, alternating between sad and complex and cheerful and gratifying cases. These vivid stories—and the accompanying family photographs of life on northern Canada’s Arctic tundra—drive home the critical importance of the nursing profession and demonstrate the mettle necessary to succeed as well as the rewarding nature of work in medicine. Medical school would test her resilience and patience as she went on to become an OB-GYN, including performing part of her residency at a controversial abortion clinic. Zehr is candid about physician burnout and how some doctors never notice the negative changes occurring in their own bodies due to mental stress and sheer exhaustion. The well-written memoir’s concluding chapters concern the author not as a medical professional but as a patient and health care consumer, forced to personally wrestle with the system’s inadequacies and frustrations. This segment is as real as it gets and unpacks a great amount of disillusionment and exasperation with an industry Zehr had enjoyed a bittersweet relationship with. Readers interested in knowing how health care operates outside of America will be fascinated by the author’s opinions and ordeals.

A passionate account about medical care written with dexterity throughout.