Once a taboo topic, stress and psychological illness in doctors is now much more widely discussed. This is probably partly due to changing societal attitudes (with more acceptance of the importance of acknowledging mental illness) and changes amongst medics themselves, with a clearer realisation that our mental wellbeing affects not just us, but our colleagues, our families, and, most importantly, our patients.
The author of this book is a surgeon who turned to psychiatry after a car accident and after he developed an interest in psycho-oncology. The book focuses almost exclusively on issues of stress within the operating theatre, rather than in the clinic room or in the emergency department. He starts with an exploration of the nature of stress in surgery, and why it is important both to acknowledge it and address it. Throughout the book, he draws on many well-documented studies and books to create a cogent and engaging thread: the prose style is remarkably easy to read, and he punctuates the chapters with illustrations, diagrams and bullet points. He touches on how surgical teams work, and it is not surprising therefore that he makes reference to Martin Bromily and to Atul Gawande, both of whom have been instrumental in changing how surgical colleagues interact.
I was particularly impressed with the chapters on cognitive simulation, with practical suggestions as to how to mentally rehearse a day’s operating schedule, and on stress management.
This short book (just 170 pages, A5 size) is easy to read and could usefully be passed around colleagues in a department. At £25, it is reasonably expensive, but covers an important topic for all surgeons.