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Breaking & Mending: A Doctor’s Story of Burnout and Recovery

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An intimate, urgent account of doctor burnout and life as a psychiatrist from bestselling author Joanna Cannon "A few years ago, I found myself in A&E. I had never felt so ill. I was mentally and physically broken. So fractured, I hadn't eaten properly or slept well, or even changed my expression for months. I sat in a cubicle, behind paper-thin curtains, listening to th An intimate, urgent account of doctor burnout and life as a psychiatrist from bestselling author Joanna Cannon "A few years ago, I found myself in A&E. I had never felt so ill. I was mentally and physically broken. So fractured, I hadn't eaten properly or slept well, or even changed my expression for months. I sat in a cubicle, behind paper-thin curtains, listening to the rest of the hospital happen around me, and I shook with the effort of not crying. I was an inch away from defeat, from the acceptance of a failure I assumed would be inevitable, but I knew I had to carry on. I had to somehow walk through it. Because I wasn't the patient. I was the doctor."A frank account of mental health from both sides of the doctor-patient divide, from the bestselling author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and Three Things About Elsie, based on her own experience as a doctor working on a psychiatric ward.


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An intimate, urgent account of doctor burnout and life as a psychiatrist from bestselling author Joanna Cannon "A few years ago, I found myself in A&E. I had never felt so ill. I was mentally and physically broken. So fractured, I hadn't eaten properly or slept well, or even changed my expression for months. I sat in a cubicle, behind paper-thin curtains, listening to th An intimate, urgent account of doctor burnout and life as a psychiatrist from bestselling author Joanna Cannon "A few years ago, I found myself in A&E. I had never felt so ill. I was mentally and physically broken. So fractured, I hadn't eaten properly or slept well, or even changed my expression for months. I sat in a cubicle, behind paper-thin curtains, listening to the rest of the hospital happen around me, and I shook with the effort of not crying. I was an inch away from defeat, from the acceptance of a failure I assumed would be inevitable, but I knew I had to carry on. I had to somehow walk through it. Because I wasn't the patient. I was the doctor."A frank account of mental health from both sides of the doctor-patient divide, from the bestselling author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and Three Things About Elsie, based on her own experience as a doctor working on a psychiatric ward.

30 review for Breaking & Mending: A Doctor’s Story of Burnout and Recovery

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*

    EXCERPT: Up until that first day as a junior doctor, I had never met death outside of my own family, other than in the detached, leather cadavers of the dissection room and in the neat rituals of a post-mortem. As a medic, I had never found myself face to face with the end of someone's life, at least not one that didn't rest quietly upon a stainless steel table, but still I went to the ward on that day to fulfill my first task as a junior doctor feeling more than prepared for the experience. And EXCERPT: Up until that first day as a junior doctor, I had never met death outside of my own family, other than in the detached, leather cadavers of the dissection room and in the neat rituals of a post-mortem. As a medic, I had never found myself face to face with the end of someone's life, at least not one that didn't rest quietly upon a stainless steel table, but still I went to the ward on that day to fulfill my first task as a junior doctor feeling more than prepared for the experience. And I did know how to feel for a pulse and how to look for signs of respiratory effort. I did know how to check for the presence of a pacemaker and fill out the death certificate. I had been taught all of this, and I could deal with it. But what I couldn't deal with, and what I didn't know, was how I would feel walking into a room at the end of someone's life and seeing all the small details around that room that told me who this person was. The small details that told me this person's story. The bag of knitting and the get-well cards, the half-eaten pack of Polo Mints, and the puzzle books. It was the paperback on the bedside table that stayed with me more than anything else. Closed shut, its bookmark resting forevermore halfway through a story. I took the sight of that paperback and kept it with me. It joined other small details I collected on the wards as I went through my days, not realizing that it was the weight of these details that would eventually break me. ABOUT THIS BOOK: An intimate, urgent account of doctor burnout and life as a psychiatrist from bestselling author Joanna Cannon "A few years ago, I found myself in A&E. I had never felt so ill. I was mentally and physically broken. So fractured, I hadn't eaten properly or slept well, or even changed my expression for months. I sat in a cubicle, behind paper-thin curtains, listening to the rest of the hospital happen around me, and I shook with the effort of not crying. I was an inch away from defeat, from the acceptance of a failure I assumed would be inevitable, but I knew I had to carry on. I had to somehow walk through it. Because I wasn't the patient. I was the doctor." A frank account of mental health from both sides of the doctor-patient divide, from the bestselling author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and Three Things About Elsie, based on her own experience as a doctor working on a psychiatric ward. MY THOUGHTS: I admire Joanna Cannon greatly. I loved her novels, Three Things About Elsie, and The Difference Between Goats and Sheep. Now I understand how she can write like she does, with such great empathy and understanding. I have worked in both general and psychiatric nursing in New Zealand, as well as in private practice. I have seen a lot of people, both nurses and doctors, burn out for the same reasons - the hours, the stress, the lack of care and concern for those who care for the ill and dying. People revere actors and sports stars, but are often rude and dismissive of those who save lives. Somewhere, we have managed to get our priorities wrong. Breaking & Mending is a short but emotional read. This is, as it says in the promotional blurb, 'an intimate account' of a woman's determination to become a doctor, and what happens on her journey. Next time I need a doctor, I hope that I get a 'cardigan', not a 'coat'. Thank you Joanna, for sharing your journey with us. I admire you even more than I did before I read Breaking &Mending. ❤❤❤❤❤ #Breaking&Mending #NetGalley THE AUTHOR: Joanna Cannon is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling debut novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, which has sold over 250,000 copies in the UK alone and has been published in 15 countries. The novel was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize, shortlisted for The Bookseller Industry Awards 2017 and won the 2016 BAMB Reader Award. Joanna has been interviewed in The Guardian, The Observer, The Sunday Times, The Times, and Good Housekeeping magazine, and her writing has appeared in the Sunday Telegraph, Daily Mail, and the Guardian, amongst others. She has appeared on BBC Breakfast, BBC News Channel’s Meet the Author, interviewed on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 5, and is a regular at literary festivals across the country including Edinburgh and Cheltenham. Joanna left school at fifteen with one O-level and worked her way through many different jobs – barmaid, kennel maid, pizza delivery expert – before returning to school in her thirties and qualifying as a doctor. Her work as a psychiatrist and interest in people on the fringes of society continue to inspire her writing, and Joanna currently volunteers for Arts for Health, an organisation bringing creative arts to NHS staff and patients. Joanna Cannon’s second novel Three Things About Elsie is published in January 2018 and explores memory, friendship and old age. She lives in the Peak District with her family and her dog. DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Serpent's Tail/Profile Books for providing a digital ARC of Breaking & Mending by Joanna Cannon for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions. For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and my webpage https://sandysbookaday.wordpress.com/...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ceecee

    What an emotional and extremely moving memoir this is from best selling author Dr Joanna Cannon. This describes her experiences as an older medical student and a junior doctor and it is a gripping read. First of all, her story of how she got to apply to be a medical student is positively inspiring and she is living proof that if you want something badly enough, that you are prepared to work hard and have the right mindset then you can achieve anything. She was the ‘wild card’ entry for her year. What an emotional and extremely moving memoir this is from best selling author Dr Joanna Cannon. This describes her experiences as an older medical student and a junior doctor and it is a gripping read. First of all, her story of how she got to apply to be a medical student is positively inspiring and she is living proof that if you want something badly enough, that you are prepared to work hard and have the right mindset then you can achieve anything. She was the ‘wild card’ entry for her year. She tells some amazing stories of people who help her overcome some of the difficulties of training such as your first dissection and how she came to see the body as miraculous. She describes how she learned from her patients the right words, the right sort of kindness, how to deal with trauma and how to deliver the worst news. A lot of this is heartbreaking and at times jaw dropping and you realise that sometimes it’s necessary to have nerves of steel but at the end of the day, they are human and whilst they help mend if they can, they also break. Junior doctors workload is well known and in the NHS they must run on adrenaline as they are frequently exhausted and as if we didn’t know it already, Covid 19 demonstrates their burden is huge and they often cannot fix problems. One things the author says really resonates with me - junior doctors begin their rotations in August which is said to be the worst time as a patient to appear at hospital. She says that’s wrong as they are fresh, they’re not exhausted and their brains are crammed with up to date knowledge, I totally agree. One gorgeous, young junior doctor, one August asked the right questions and noticed a symptom my mother presented with that two consultants had failed to observe over an eighteen month period. We got a diagnosis, it wasn’t what we hoped for but we now knew, so the authors words struck a real chord with me. She talks of developing a sixth sense with patients and that echoes with me as a teacher, we too develop it with experience and like in medicine, it nips things in the bud. I love how she talks so wonderfully about her patients, it’s so apparent she cares and has oodles of warmth and is a very compassionate doctor and without spoiling this excellent read, they aren’t all bursting with it. Overall, an absolute gem of a book which unites her literary career with her medical one as medicine is about stories. It’s a very well written book too. I love her gratitude to those who help her, you feel the brutal pressure, the just hanging on by your fingernails in order to survive, the debilitating toll that working for the NHS can take but also it’s humanity, it’s care, that it gives hope, that it reassures, that it’s kind, it’s teamwork and it’s there for us 24 hours a day. A resounding thank you to her and to the many thousands of others who have recently risked their lives for us. 🌈Thank you 🌈 With thanks to NetGalley and Serpents Tale/Profile Books for the ARC in return for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Carmel Hanes

    "I was told compassion is something to be desired and applauded. But compassion will eat away at your sanity. It will make you pull up in a lay-by on the journey home, because you can no longer see the road for the tears. It will creep through your mind in the darkness, and keep you from your sleep, and you will find that the cloth from which you are cut will begin to suffocate you." "This disapproval of emotional reaction exists in everyday life too. Certain corners of society maintain a particu "I was told compassion is something to be desired and applauded. But compassion will eat away at your sanity. It will make you pull up in a lay-by on the journey home, because you can no longer see the road for the tears. It will creep through your mind in the darkness, and keep you from your sleep, and you will find that the cloth from which you are cut will begin to suffocate you." "This disapproval of emotional reaction exists in everyday life too. Certain corners of society maintain a particular distaste for anyone displaying emotion, anyone who admits they are overwhelmed or unable to cope....we are expected to somehow absorb our feelings and our responses to life, to banish them far from the surface of who we seem to be, because their disappearance makes it so much easier for everyone else. In medicine, it's seen as almost mandatory." These are not words we often hear a doctor speak. Instead, we hear matter-of-fact diagnostic information in confident tones. We hear recommendations and statistics. We hear pronouncements about how much time we might have left, after disease carves away our essence. Occasionally, if we are lucky, a cold message might have kind eyes accompanying it with a quick pat on the hand. We tend to put doctors on pedestals, expecting competence and unemotional information. We expect them to be superhuman in conducting their business. We forget that beneath the stethoscope and white coats is a human being, subject to all the same frailties we experience. This book is an emotional autopsy on how wrong we can be, and how destructive the demands of medicine, and the medical community, can be on those who lead with compassion. It's an honest and raw assessment of how our nature can be so out of sync with our job that it buries us in doubt and pain. "...but while doctors are meant to lean back, far away from the abyss, it is a basic human reflex to reach across--to discover a connection, a common ground, to find something of yourself in other people. I reached across because it felt like the most natural thing to do." Reaching across is the most natural thing to do, but it comes at a cost. The human heart can only carry so much and then it begins to crumble. And what if you work (or live) in an environment that doesn't allow you to show you're crumbling? Cannon explores the isolation and alienation that results from walking among others who fail to notice, fail to see that you are drowning; or worse, see it and criticize instead of offering assistance and understanding. This book captures the phenomenon of "compassion fatigue", and would be of interest to anyone who has worked in a helping profession--nurses, doctors, counselors, teachers, medics, firefighters, police officers. People go into these professions with a desire to help others, but that responsibility, over time, can erode our well-being. Cannon found her way out of the darkness, but recognizes not everyone does. This story hit home, for I, too, have experienced that fatigue and know how utterly empty one can begin to feel. "Perhaps each of us is just searching for the right landscape and for our somewhere to belong, searching for the right place to tell our stories, in the hope that someone out there will listen and we will be understood." Amen. It's important to look more carefully at each other, and to reach across the abyss when we see someone falling behind.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bookread2day

    I didn't get to read The Trouble With Goats and Sheep or Three Things About Elsie, so I had no idea of anything about Joanna Cannon. By reading the paperback Breaking and Mending I found out the pressure that Joanna went through being a junior doctor. One thing that will stay with me about Joanna Cannon is how kind and caring she was when a patient died. If you buy this book do please make sure you have a box of tissues ready. I'm going to pass my book to my daughter who works in a doctors surge I didn't get to read The Trouble With Goats and Sheep or Three Things About Elsie, so I had no idea of anything about Joanna Cannon. By reading the paperback Breaking and Mending I found out the pressure that Joanna went through being a junior doctor. One thing that will stay with me about Joanna Cannon is how kind and caring she was when a patient died. If you buy this book do please make sure you have a box of tissues ready. I'm going to pass my book to my daughter who works in a doctors surgery, she knows full well that the NHS are under strain, and that is one of the topics that Joanna talks about in her book. I have to recommend Breaking and Mending. It's one of those books to keep forever. So when I let my daughter read this book, I will want it back.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Anni

    “I learned that returning a life to someone very often has nothing to do with restoring a heartbeat.” Joanna Cannon is a consummate storyteller, having had two best selling novels under her belt – and her gift for writing is amply demonstrated in this profoundly moving memoir of her training as a doctor and early medical career. She was chosen by the Medical School admissions professor as a ‘wild card’ candidate to study medicine – a mature student without the usual privileged educational backgrou “I learned that returning a life to someone very often has nothing to do with restoring a heartbeat.” Joanna Cannon is a consummate storyteller, having had two best selling novels under her belt – and her gift for writing is amply demonstrated in this profoundly moving memoir of her training as a doctor and early medical career. She was chosen by the Medical School admissions professor as a ‘wild card’ candidate to study medicine – a mature student without the usual privileged educational background. We shadow her through all the rigours of medical school and her days and nights on the wards of NHS hospitals, sharing glimpses of the hidden world behind the scenes – and screens – of hospital wards which is usually concealed from patients, and discovering the secret code in the nurse's mysterious message ‘a package for Rose Cottage’. Eventually, Cannon’s caring, empathetic nature with patients made it difficult to maintain a professional distance. This factor, combined with unsympathetic senior doctors and the pressures of NHS bureaucracy, left her vulnerable to compassion fatigue and a physical and mental breakdown. However, her special talent for close observation and listening to the patients’ stories, which was discouraged on the overworked and understaffed NHS wards, became an invaluable skill when she finally achieved her ambition of working with psychiatric patients. Adam Kay Covers much of the same ground in his humorous medical memoir ‘This is Going to Hurt’ – the dysfunctional administration of a shamefully underfunded national health care system which fails to take care of the health of its own staff. Both pay tribute to the unsung heroes - the doctors and nurses who give their utmost in making patients lives bearable in traumatic circumstances. I would greatly recommend both of these memoirs to everyone who has had occasion to use the National Health Service (which must be virtually all living in the UK) and especially to those idealists thinking of practising medicine.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Marianne

    “Medicine is a vocation, not a job, we are often told. The reality is, it is both, but when the conditions of the job become unbearable, when the demands made of us are likely to put our own lives at risk, not to mention the lives of the patients in our care, we are expected to continue to bear it because of a deep-rooted sense of purpose. A calling to serve and heal, and to fix.” Breaking and Mending is a book by award-winning British doctor and author, Joanna Cannon. Whenever we or our loved on “Medicine is a vocation, not a job, we are often told. The reality is, it is both, but when the conditions of the job become unbearable, when the demands made of us are likely to put our own lives at risk, not to mention the lives of the patients in our care, we are expected to continue to bear it because of a deep-rooted sense of purpose. A calling to serve and heal, and to fix.” Breaking and Mending is a book by award-winning British doctor and author, Joanna Cannon. Whenever we or our loved ones visit the emergency department of a hospital, or are admitted, we put our health, and often our lives, in the hands of the medical staff there, many of whom are junior doctors. But few of us, unless we work in the system or are close to those who do, understand the pressure that system puts on those doctors. Dr Jo Cannon is in the unique position of having experienced that system, having been a casualty of it, and having the literary skill to be able to succinctly share that experience: “Each time I read that another doctor has vanished from their life , that someone else has felt the need to disappear from this landscape, it takes my breath away for a moment, because it could have been any one of us. It most definitely could have been me, as I sat there in an A& E cubicle trying to work out how a job I had been so determined to do, and so desperate to be good at, had turned itself into my nemesis.” Dr Jo describes exactly how the system drives these dedicated professionals to breakdown, to leave the vocation they loved, to take their own lives. She points out that the conditions under which junior doctors work (sleep deprived and meal deprived) present danger, not just for the doctor and the patients they treat, but also for road users as they drag themselves home on auto-pilot. “For all their training, for all their knowledge and expertise in sustaining good health, attending to their own well-being is something that doctors are not especially good at… Look after yourself, we are told and then we are placed in a situation where self-care is impossible, and even seen by some as unpleasantly self-indulgent.” Dr Jo includes pertinent quotes from many involved in the process: the admissions tutor. the lecturer, the medical student, the junior doctor, the consultant, the nurse, the ward sister, the patient, and the mental health nurse, as she relates her journey towards her ultimately satisfying role in psychiatry. As well as the strong message about the need for change to the system, for better mentoring and less pressure, Dr Jo treats the reader to some marvellous prose: “we should all choose our words with more care because we never know the scales with which they will be measured” and “we stalk the hospital looking for examples , our pens poised over our workbooks, like medical birdwatchers” are some. Also “I knew these were the things patients say when they’re told a diagnosis: offering them piece by piece to the teller, as if evidence of the unfairness and the unlikeliness of it all will make the diagnosis realise its mistake, change its mind and walk away” The pressure from the system is clearly not unique to Britain as Australian doctor Sonia Henry’s excellent novel, Going Under attests. A sobering and very important read. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Serpent’s Tail.

  7. 5 out of 5

    littlemiss_emmxx

    Brilliant book. Loved every second of it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alice (Married To Books)

    Wow... I can't even begin to type my review up without feeling a little emotional. I've read quite a few medical memoirs in my lifetime, however, none truly hit me in the way that Breaking & Mending did. This follows Joanna as she studies at medical school as a mature student and then works in a busy hospital ward, having to navigate difficult patients and staff with some truly heartbreaking moments. The writing style came across as a casual conversation, like Joanna herself was sitting next to Wow... I can't even begin to type my review up without feeling a little emotional. I've read quite a few medical memoirs in my lifetime, however, none truly hit me in the way that Breaking & Mending did. This follows Joanna as she studies at medical school as a mature student and then works in a busy hospital ward, having to navigate difficult patients and staff with some truly heartbreaking moments. The writing style came across as a casual conversation, like Joanna herself was sitting next to me and physically describing her life. A must-read!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sandra Armor

    Just finished the audiobook of #BreakingandMending read by the author, @JoannaCannon. An intensely moving memoir. I sobbed at several of the patient stories. It’s heartbreaking, but reinforces how much we owe to all those who care for us when we cannot. A must read or listen.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Schizanthus Nerd

    I learned that returning a life to someone very often has nothing to do with restoring a heartbeat. In this memoir, Joanna Cannon invites readers to experience key moments of her time in medical school and as a junior doctor. This quick read has short chapters but they provide insights on her highs and lows, as well as the patients that have stayed with her. I found her writing style engaging and I could easily picture what Joanna was describing. Burnout is an unlikely phrase, because it impl I learned that returning a life to someone very often has nothing to do with restoring a heartbeat. In this memoir, Joanna Cannon invites readers to experience key moments of her time in medical school and as a junior doctor. This quick read has short chapters but they provide insights on her highs and lows, as well as the patients that have stayed with her. I found her writing style engaging and I could easily picture what Joanna was describing. Burnout is an unlikely phrase, because it implies that the effects are loud and obvious, raging like a fire for everyone to see. Most burnout, however, is quiet and remains unseen. It exists behind a still and mirrored surface, deep, out of reach, unnoticed by everyone - even, sometimes, by the one who is burning. While some of the factors that contributed to her ‘breaking’ are fairly clear in my mind, the details of the ‘mending’ remain fairly vague to me. Sure, I know that being able to work in psychiatry, which was the reason Joanna was in medical school in the first place, was integral to her recovery. However, unlike the lead up to her burnout, the recovery process didn’t really come alive on the page for me. I was impressed by Joanna’s ability to hold on to her compassion, even as her work as a junior doctor was taking a physical and psychological toll on her. What I will take away from this read, though, is the kindness and courage of so many of her patients, despite their circumstances. Content warnings include mention of death by suicide, mental health and self harm. Blog - https://schizanthusnerd.com

  11. 5 out of 5

    Anni

    “I learned that returning a life to someone very often has nothing to do with restoring a heartbeat.” Joanna Cannon is a consummate storyteller, having had two best selling novels under her belt – and her gift for writing is amply demonstrated in this profoundly moving memoir of her training as a doctor and early medical career. She was chosen by the Medical School admissions professor as a ‘wild card’ candidate to study medicine – a mature student without the usual privileged educational backgrou “I learned that returning a life to someone very often has nothing to do with restoring a heartbeat.” Joanna Cannon is a consummate storyteller, having had two best selling novels under her belt – and her gift for writing is amply demonstrated in this profoundly moving memoir of her training as a doctor and early medical career. She was chosen by the Medical School admissions professor as a ‘wild card’ candidate to study medicine – a mature student without the usual privileged educational background. We shadow her through all the rigours of medical school and her days and nights on the wards of NHS hospitals, sharing glimpses of the hidden world behind the scenes – and screens – of hospital wards which is usually concealed from patients, and discovering the secret code in the nurse's mysterious message ‘a package for Rose Cottage’. Eventually, Cannon’s caring, empathetic nature with patients made it difficult to maintain a professional distance. This factor, combined with unsympathetic senior doctors and the pressures of NHS bureaucracy, left her vulnerable to compassion fatigue and a physical and mental breakdown. However, her special talent for close observation and listening to the patients’ stories, which was discouraged on the overworked and understaffed NHS wards, became an invaluable skill when she finally achieved her ambition of working with psychiatric patients - and later as a novelist. Highly recommended.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I read the first 30 pages and skimmed another 12. Cannon left school at 15 and came to medicine late, starting her training in her 30s. Her father had died not long before then, and she initially had trouble with dissections because it reminded her of his dead body, the last she’d seen previously. A compassionate registrar got her involved in hospital autopsies so she could become used to being around corpses. I’ve read so many doctors’ memoirs now, and this one doesn’t really cut the mustard: th I read the first 30 pages and skimmed another 12. Cannon left school at 15 and came to medicine late, starting her training in her 30s. Her father had died not long before then, and she initially had trouble with dissections because it reminded her of his dead body, the last she’d seen previously. A compassionate registrar got her involved in hospital autopsies so she could become used to being around corpses. I’ve read so many doctors’ memoirs now, and this one doesn’t really cut the mustard: the writing is undistinguished and the tone as sentimental as I’ve come to expect from her novels. I should have known after The Trouble with Goats and Sheep that there was no point in reading more by Cannon, but I thought the subject matter would be enough to make it stand out for me. Lines I liked: “I am very often asked about the similarities between being a doctor and being an author, and the answer is very simple. Writing always rests on a narrative, on hearing a voice, and it’s exactly the same for medicine”.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    I finished the last sentence of ‘Breaking & Mending’ and sat in silence, once again in complete and utter awe of Joanna Cannon. I have been a huge fan ever since I read an early proof copy of ‘The Trouble With Goats and Sheep’. Joanna Cannon’s skill with words always amazes me. She is an author who has that rare ability of conveying so many things in just one five word sentence. As someone who always waffles and scrambles around for the right words, I am always amazed by those people who select I finished the last sentence of ‘Breaking & Mending’ and sat in silence, once again in complete and utter awe of Joanna Cannon. I have been a huge fan ever since I read an early proof copy of ‘The Trouble With Goats and Sheep’. Joanna Cannon’s skill with words always amazes me. She is an author who has that rare ability of conveying so many things in just one five word sentence. As someone who always waffles and scrambles around for the right words, I am always amazed by those people who select the perfect words with ease. Though I’m sure it doesn’t always feel easy at the time! Joanna Cannon came to medicine in her thirties with the ambition of specialising in psychiatry, and she was the ‘wild card’ of her medical school year. A wild card she may have been, but a more perfect human to go into a career healing people there couldn’t have been. This deeply moving memoir perfectly illustrates her compassion for her patients, her endless ability to listen to them, her pain when the patients who have become friends pass away and her honesty about how bone crushingly desperate and broken many, many junior doctors become. But this isn’t a book just about doctors, it is also about the patients. Every single one mentioned, and I’m sure there are many more that haven’t, have been carried around in Joanna Cannon’s heart and thoughts for many many years. I found myself getting choked up many a time, especially towards the end of the book where we hear about the compassion patients have for each other. They are all suffering unimaginable pain yet they can still hold a hand out to help someone. That is something that will stay with me and it is a lesson that people should hold with them everyday. ‘Breaking & Mending’ moved me to tears more than once. The stories that are shared with us are emotional, raw, heartbreaking but they are also life changing, full of hope and inspiration. These stories will make you think differently about the doctors you see walking the hospital corridors but also about the people you see everyday. You don’t know what battles people are fighting, a little kindness costs nothing. If I was a person that used a highlighter whilst reading, my entire copy would be a glowing florescent yellow now! But I can’t do that to a book, instead pretty much every single page has a tiny post-it note to show the sections that really touched my soul. Every section touched my soul! The writing is just phenomenal, as I’ve already mentioned, there are single sentences that convey so much in so few words. There are so many lines that are quote-worthy! I read this book in one greedy sitting, but I will return to it because I need to bask in it’s glory just a little bit more. Thank you Joanna Cannon for writing this book. This wonderful wonderful book. It was an absolute pleasure and honour to read it and it will stay in my heart forever. And to everyone reading this review, I implore you, read the book!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    I was familiar with Joanna Cannon as the author of two popular novels. I didn't know she was a doctor. I discovered her novels through my favorite book blogger Simon Savidge, and he also alerted me to this excellent memoir. Cannon decided to become a doctor when she was in her 30's. Medical training in the UK is quite different from the US. The education begins after secondary school in the UK, while in US, students must have a 4 year degree, usually in pre-med studies such as biology or chemistr I was familiar with Joanna Cannon as the author of two popular novels. I didn't know she was a doctor. I discovered her novels through my favorite book blogger Simon Savidge, and he also alerted me to this excellent memoir. Cannon decided to become a doctor when she was in her 30's. Medical training in the UK is quite different from the US. The education begins after secondary school in the UK, while in US, students must have a 4 year degree, usually in pre-med studies such as biology or chemistry. However, in both countries, medical students are overworked and sometimes (too often) bullied by senior doctors. Cannon suffered a great deal of non-supportive treatment that she had to overcome to achieve her goal. Through her various experiences in hospitals, Cannon realized that the NHS, a system she had always valued, was deteriorating. Underfunded and with growing patient loads, it appears to be moving towards collapse. I don't live in the UK, and I can't evaluate the condition of health care under NHS. I have friends in the UK who have praised it and others who have had bad experiences. Throughout her education, Cannon demonstrated a high degree of true compassion. She shares better ways to respond to patients, and to share bad news. Eventually, she decides that she will specialize in psychiatry. Every specialization has its challenges and rewards. Some require more years to qualify and pay levels vary widely. If nothing else, this memoir raised my admiration for those who go into medicine, including nurses (my mother, and her sister were nurses). This audiobook was wonderfully narrated by the author. Highly recommended.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Esther King

    One of the most important things that one can do as a healthcare worker is to connect, to bear witness to the horrible things that cross the threshold into your office or clinic or hospital daily, to take on the sheer weight of the world that you see every single day. This book covers this impossible task in a beautiful way, looking into the exhausting world of constant compassion and the necessity of caring for patients whilst maintaining some semblance of your own mental health. I had no prior One of the most important things that one can do as a healthcare worker is to connect, to bear witness to the horrible things that cross the threshold into your office or clinic or hospital daily, to take on the sheer weight of the world that you see every single day. This book covers this impossible task in a beautiful way, looking into the exhausting world of constant compassion and the necessity of caring for patients whilst maintaining some semblance of your own mental health. I had no prior experience with the author, so reading this book as a first experience was lovely. The writing is lyrical and keeps you held close to what is happening- the empathy that she holds in her heart for those she cares for is overwhelming. We're privileged to live in a Commonwealth where healthcare is a right, not a privilege, and so these recent volumes from various authors about the pitfalls of the NHS and Medicare are very necessary- they show us the underbelly of how hard all doctors work to save lives. I especially loved reading about the card she received from a sister of one of the patients- it's things like that that keep people going. I think the story of the night shift where the supervising doctor simply walked off will stay with me for a long time. To be in such a vulnerable position must be awful, and to have to manage it with only ten days under your belt a real-life horror story. I can only hope that books like this bring attention to the fact that doctors are as human as the rest of us, and it is so necessary to care for them as such.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Although a relatively short read compared to its counterparts, this was an overall enjoyable read following one woman’s decision to retrain and become a doctor well into her thirties. There isn’t a huge amount of detail given about the authors background, which I would have liked to have seen more of to build a bigger picture of who she is. However, she goes on to eloquently describe the process of medical school and her first terrifying months as a medical student and then as a junior doctor. H Although a relatively short read compared to its counterparts, this was an overall enjoyable read following one woman’s decision to retrain and become a doctor well into her thirties. There isn’t a huge amount of detail given about the authors background, which I would have liked to have seen more of to build a bigger picture of who she is. However, she goes on to eloquently describe the process of medical school and her first terrifying months as a medical student and then as a junior doctor. Having worked in the NHS in a nursing capacity, I can empathise with so much of this book and how healthcare professionals become burnt out quickly due to lack of staff and resources. This would be an excellent choice for NHS managers and politicians to read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jules

    As a paramedic, this book massively resonated with me, especially in relation to dealing with suicide, and the feelings of inadequacy. Jo is brilliant at writing about people and their emotions & I felt my eyes filling with tears at several points. I do think I found it more emotional because I can relate to it, but I certainly recommend a read. It’s a book that will stay with me for a very, very long time.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

    So so beautiful - made me cry!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Baljit

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Such a beautifully written book about such a sensitive topic. This book resonated with me because it brought back memories of my medical school years and my training as a junior doctor. The writer is an atypical entrant into medical school; she is a ‘mature student’ who made her career choice after some diversions. I remember befriending mature students in medical school, and realizing that they have a different perspective on life. Some had been nurses, some had young children to care for and s Such a beautifully written book about such a sensitive topic. This book resonated with me because it brought back memories of my medical school years and my training as a junior doctor. The writer is an atypical entrant into medical school; she is a ‘mature student’ who made her career choice after some diversions. I remember befriending mature students in medical school, and realizing that they have a different perspective on life. Some had been nurses, some had young children to care for and some continued working while studying. The enormity of their challenges only dawned on me years later when I had family of my own. But even more then that mature students bring a different viewpoint to situations, things are less black and white and more shades of grey as years accumulate. In medical training in UK there is a consciousness to teach trainee doctors communication skills and to present empathy to patients. Great effort is made to carry out simulation and discussions; the reality is v different once the real work begins. The NHS has gone through a lot of changes and strain to allocations leaving many medical staff struggling with lack of resources. It’s v difficult to keep cancelling elective surgeries and allow patients to carry on with their painful and debilitating conditions, and still empathize with them. Many healthcare professionals have left the system to work abroad or seek alternative career plans in frustration. With a system mired in bureaucracy and the blame game, it’s difficult to sustain passion for the practice of medicine. The writer clearly is more sensitive than many of her peers, she crosses the doctor- patient boundary, which takes a personal toll on her well-being. She refuses to become institutionalized in the system and more hardened to the suffering of her patients. She ultimately chooses the right speciality to train; her skills of talking and listening to patients is the v essence of psychiatry. This is a v important point; the medical career is multi-faceted and it’s important to make the right choice, not purely for monetary gain. A pathologist will seldom have to delve into patient’s feelings and is skilled in post-Mortems and tissue analyses. A surgeon has to be technically skilled to conduct surgeries, a pediatrician has to be skilled with babies and children....... but there is no denying that all of us can do with a good dose of empathy.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jacki (Julia Flyte)

    I knew that Joanna Cannon was a novelist but I did not know that in her 30s she trained as a doctor and worked in psychiatry. This is a memoir about her time working in the NHS, a job which caused her to burnout. It covers similar territory to This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor, and both are excellent but they are quite different in tone. The easiest way to explain the difference is to think about how Adam Kay now works as a comedian while Joanna Cannon works as a novelist. I knew that Joanna Cannon was a novelist but I did not know that in her 30s she trained as a doctor and worked in psychiatry. This is a memoir about her time working in the NHS, a job which caused her to burnout. It covers similar territory to This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor, and both are excellent but they are quite different in tone. The easiest way to explain the difference is to think about how Adam Kay now works as a comedian while Joanna Cannon works as a novelist. So Kay's book tended to focus on short anecdotes and amusing stories (although also he also includes stories that aren't amusing at all, and that change in tone helps to make them more powerful). Cannon's book is more about her internal journey and about people she encountered whose stories stayed with her. She has a novelists's eye for the descriptive details that anchor you in the situation. Kay's book moved me, but Cannon's made me cry. She cares about the lives of her patients, to the point where it is at the expense of her own mental health. She spends off duty hours sitting by patients and keeping them company. She cries when they die. And somehow she has turned that into a memoir that is not self-promoting and that is more beautiful than it is grim.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Callum McLaughlin

    This anecdotal memoir focusses on Cannon’s time spent as a junior doctor, working on both A&E and psychiatric wards. Its primary aim is to humanise the overworked and underappreciated staff who keep the NHS afloat in times of unrest and austerity, and to explore the ethical grey area between maintaining professional protocol and extending the hand of human kindness. From heart-breakingly tender interactions with patients, to moments of gut-punch trauma, she highlights the physical and emotional This anecdotal memoir focusses on Cannon’s time spent as a junior doctor, working on both A&E and psychiatric wards. Its primary aim is to humanise the overworked and underappreciated staff who keep the NHS afloat in times of unrest and austerity, and to explore the ethical grey area between maintaining professional protocol and extending the hand of human kindness. From heart-breakingly tender interactions with patients, to moments of gut-punch trauma, she highlights the physical and emotional burnout that comes with the job. By doing so, she shows us why it’s imperative we stop seeing health workers as miraculous, indomitable heroes, and start treating them like the fallible human beings they are, by putting better support systems in place. Cannon’s writing style is gentle and approachable. Though she doesn’t shy away from how devastating life as a doctor (and a patient) can be, she never loses the spark of hope that things can get better. She argues that transparency and storytelling are our best means of encouraging the kind of open dialogue that will birth positive change. Here, she leads by example.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Honestmamreader

    When Profile Books gifted me the copy of Breaking and Mending by Dr Joanna Cannon I was very grateful and excited to read it. Not only because it had an interesting premise but because Dr Joanna Cannon is the author of one of my favourite books that I've read this year "Three Things About Elsie" and I couldn't wait to delve into her memoir of being a junior doctor. This book is definitely not a fluffy, rose-tinted look at junior doctors. This is a memoir filled with gritty tales and insightful s When Profile Books gifted me the copy of Breaking and Mending by Dr Joanna Cannon I was very grateful and excited to read it. Not only because it had an interesting premise but because Dr Joanna Cannon is the author of one of my favourite books that I've read this year "Three Things About Elsie" and I couldn't wait to delve into her memoir of being a junior doctor. This book is definitely not a fluffy, rose-tinted look at junior doctors. This is a memoir filled with gritty tales and insightful stories of what a junior doctor goes through to get were they are. It made me respect and appreciate the workers of the NHS a lot more. This was a more in-depth and personal account from someone who has had first hand experience at it. It humanises the doctors that we take for granted, they are not robots who mend and heal us. They are like us, human with feelings and emotions. This is a book that everyone needs to buy and read. Take a moment in your life to make sense of those that save lives.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ellie (bookmadbarlow)

    A beautifully written and moving memoir about the authors experiences of being a Junior Doctor. I felt for her as she described her experiences and cried more than once, having to put the book down as it all felt so raw. Joanna Cannon has put her heart and soul into this book and I couldn't help be moved by that. I know its a good book when I have to get the tabs out. There was nothing political or jarring just a gentle reminder to be kinder to people, and to try to understand what others are goin A beautifully written and moving memoir about the authors experiences of being a Junior Doctor. I felt for her as she described her experiences and cried more than once, having to put the book down as it all felt so raw. Joanna Cannon has put her heart and soul into this book and I couldn't help be moved by that. I know its a good book when I have to get the tabs out. There was nothing political or jarring just a gentle reminder to be kinder to people, and to try to understand what others are going through. I will be pushing this book onto everyone. My thanks to the publisher for the gifted copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    In her thirties, Joanna Cannon decided to enter the world of medicine. This memoir is of her time as a junior doctor before she moved fully into psychiatry. It's brutally raw at times, full of emotion, and shows how much dedication NHS staff have. In her thirties, Joanna Cannon decided to enter the world of medicine. This memoir is of her time as a junior doctor before she moved fully into psychiatry. It's brutally raw at times, full of emotion, and shows how much dedication NHS staff have.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sasha

    A slim but profound volume. We see the joys and despair of practising medicine in the NHS today and are given a reminder of how to be human

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tanya Parsons

    As someone who knows nothing about studying to be or being a doctor I found it a very interesting, and eye-opening read. Both with regard to the life of junior doctors and the NHS.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Scarlett

    ‘Kindness is nothing to do with wearing a uniform or stethoscope. It’s to do with being human’ This is a memoir about Joanna Cannon’s experiences as a junior doctor in the NHS. She describes everything from the very beginning of her medical career - throughout medical school, her first days as a junior doctor and her transition through to psychiatry. I absolutely LOVED this book. It was heartbreaking, touching and extremely emotional and I flew through it. You learn about the day-to-day experience ‘Kindness is nothing to do with wearing a uniform or stethoscope. It’s to do with being human’ This is a memoir about Joanna Cannon’s experiences as a junior doctor in the NHS. She describes everything from the very beginning of her medical career - throughout medical school, her first days as a junior doctor and her transition through to psychiatry. I absolutely LOVED this book. It was heartbreaking, touching and extremely emotional and I flew through it. You learn about the day-to-day experiences that all of our Doctors and Nurses go through each shift, and the impact this has on their mental wellbeing. Not having enough time sleep, eat or even drink. The emotional weight that comes with trying to help each patient, when sometimes there is no solution. I recommend everyone to read this book. It was beautifully written and the stories inside are extremely moving and will stay with me for a long time. *I received a free review copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest unedited feedback via netgalley* Paperback is released on 2nd July 2020!

  28. 5 out of 5

    lizzie parkes

    I adored this book, though sad at times and sometimes difficult to read (some points resonate with my own experience of working in the NHS) it’s a book you won’t forget. Joanna does an incredible job at giving the struggles of a junior doctor the recognition they deserve - whilst somehow making sure the best moments appear unparalleled and worth every second!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Novelle Novels

    5 out of 5 stars This is a Doctors true story and one of highs and lows. Dr cannon decided to be a doctor later in life than many of her colleagues but her big heart made her perfect for the job. After being in hospital and dealing with different doctors she is someone I would have loved to have treat me as she talks about the importance of really listening.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Evelina

    Having read Adam Kay's ''This is Going to Hurt'' I wanted to try something similar. An honest, brutal, and open narrative of what it is like to work for the crumbling NHS and how little support doctors receive. Of course, my favourite part was the psychiatry rotation. Having read Adam Kay's ''This is Going to Hurt'' I wanted to try something similar. An honest, brutal, and open narrative of what it is like to work for the crumbling NHS and how little support doctors receive. Of course, my favourite part was the psychiatry rotation.

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