Volume 51, Issue 12, December 2022

Book review: Every doctor: Healthier doctor = healthier patients

Nagalaxmi Iyengar   
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Authors: Leanne Rowe, Michael Kidd
Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2019
Paperback ISBN 9781138497856

Every doctor is a masterpiece that explores the critical goal of physician self-care while delivering clinical care of the highest standard to others. As highlighted by the authors, ‘there are immense challenges facing the 21st-century doctor – stress, burnout, mental illness, suicide, substance abuse, bullying, harassment, discrimination, patient-initiated anger and violence, and medical litigation’. Physician self-care therefore remains pivotal to transcend these common stressors, build personal resilience and ‘create our legacy’.

The book is separated into three sections, each highlighting key recommendations. Section 1 presents personal and poignant reflections by medical professionals with diverse clinical experience from a myriad of specialities about strategies to improve physical and mental health. It acknowledges the genuine hardships faced by doctors every day; the predicament experienced by clinicians to express these challenges, including fear of judgement by colleagues and shame due to public humiliation; and the personal sacrifices made by medical professionals, which tragically continue to be celebrated as a badge of honour. Section 2 provides strategies to create healthier teams, ‘the essential ingredients of strong collaborative clinical leadership and culture’. It highlights the intolerant and toxic culture of medicine, in which disclosure of doctor distress results in ‘career suicide’. The pressure on doctors to deliver more for their patients under time pressure and personal stressors with limited coping mechanisms inevitably leads to impoverished patient outcomes. As a corollary, it also affects the health of clinicians and limits their ability to take on leadership roles in addition to clinical roles, essential elements to the success of an aspiring clinician. Finally, Section 3 provides an affirmation for every doctor to lead by example and influence positive changes in their workplace every day. Section 3 includes acknowledging collaborative medical leadership and living our shared values exemplified by the Hippocratic Oath, which unifies all medical professionals.

Building strong relationships, communicating effectively, prioritising our own physical and mental health and contributing to a shared legacy where we develop realistic goals for all aspects of our lives beyond medicine are just some strategies articulated by Rowe and Kidd in their elegant analysis. They present practical strategies based on medical literature and the wisdom of experienced doctors, and they employ storytelling as a strategy to educate medical professionals about the importance of self-care. I recommend this book as an effective and informative guide for physicians to succeed in their personal and professional endeavours.

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