By Dr Nick Edwards
Review by Louisa (Medicine)
In Stitches is one of the first books I read as I started finding super-curricular things to mention in my personal statement. It is a series of anecdotes about Dr Edwards’ holistic experience as an A&E doctor – like the staple med student book “This is Going to Hurt” by Adam Kay.
What I found interesting about this book was learning about how patient care can become suboptimal when too much focus is placed on statistics and policies. For example, Edwards frequently mentions the rule that all patients in A&E must be seen within four hours of their arrival. Whilst this would be ideal, there are times when it is not feasible. To avoid any breach of targets, Edwards highlights that many people would simply alter the times. This would have given management the false belief that A&E wards were coping well with the workload when perhaps they were not. One thing I will say is that he complains about targets a lot, so please don’t let it discourage you from pursuing a career in the NHS! It is also important to note that this book was published in 2007, so may not be fully reflective of today’s practices.
Edwards discusses the importance of reflecting on every patient encounter: uplifting and distressing. Allowing yourself to be human and experience grief for your patients (whilst still maintaining professionalism) is key to personal development and growth as a doctor. I think perhaps this is something that gets overlooked in the excitement of becoming a medical student – you may feel as though you need to become detached in order to remain professional, focussing on treating symptoms as opposed to the patient. In reality, you will become more in tune with your emotions to become increasingly empathetic, approachable and kind. Additionally, working in a multidisciplinary team will surround you with people who understand the struggles of the job and will be able to support you.
However, this book isn’t all doom and gloom! Working in A&E, Edwards recounts a wide variety of cases, showing how broad and exciting medicine can be. He manages to find the humour in the job (even during tough shifts), sharing amusing and unfortunate stories of patients with objects in… unusual locations! I highly recommend this book to get a flavour of working in a busy hospital ward whilst learning about the bureaucratic constraints of higher management and their impact on health care professionals on the “shop floor”.
In Stitches by Dr Nick Edwards