What is going on in healthcare?
A reflection on the story behind the book, Beyond the Stethoscope, featuring friend and author Lucy Mayes.
What is going on in healthcare? Young doctors are suing hospitals for being overworked and underpaid. Modern medical science is at once mistrusted and rescuing us from un-ending lockdowns – not to mention saving lives. Emerging science on placebo and the power of mind over body is toppling conventional wisdom and our revered and never more ‘essential’ healthcare workforce are under pressure as never before - exhausted, burnt out and sinking.
Reading stories and statistics on suicide in the medical profession, and witnessing worrying burnout in her doctor husband, author Lucy Mayes decided she needed to learn more and do something to help him and others like him. She also realised the general public had very little idea of what was really going on behind the scenes in healthcare.
“This,” she says, “was a story that needed to be told.” Beyond the Stethoscope – Doctors’ stories of reclaiming hope, heart and healing in medicine is the result. “As a social worker and lawyer, I just couldn’t believe what I was witnessing of workplace conditions and cultures in healthcare where doctors were expected to trade their own wellbeing for that of another,” says Mayes. “And they received very little training and support to deal with the enormous pressures and expectations, and persistent exposure to trauma,” she continues.
Mayes also became concerned about a culture of stoicism and ‘arms-length’ treatment which did little to acknowledge the very real human vulnerabilities and needs of both patients and doctors, and the associated risks to health outcomes on both sides.
In capturing the raw and intimate stories of dozens of doctors, representing many specialities and contexts, Mayes offers up a sometimes shocking, often heart-warming, rarely seen insight into a system upon which we are all reliant, and about which many of us understand very little. Have you ever wondered what it is really like to be privy to people’s most intimate struggles, to be responsible for life and death, and to be part of a complex system that either makes you or breaks you?
Respected doctor, author and educator Dr Craig Hassed writes in the foreword to Beyond the Stethoscope: “Here is a book that would shed a light on both the problems and potential solutions to the ills of modern medicine…. The stress, burnout and poor mental health of doctors who are meant to be healers is both a symptom and a sign of a wider malady within the healthcare system.
The system cannot change unless the community wants and seeks out a different kind of healthcare – one where holism does not give way to reductionism, where mind and heart are not subsumed into materialism, where prevention is always better than cure, and where deep listening is more than just exchanging clinical information. One where healing is more than merely using a drug to manipulate blood lipid or glucose levels back into a 'normal range' or surgically removing a cancerous growth. Modern biomedicine is not 'wrong' it is just limited in its scope and, in terms of importance, oftentimes puts last things first and first things last. But for such a paradigm-shift to take place in modern healthcare, patients have to demand something different and be prepared to put in the effort required to make it a reality. It can’t be a top-down imposition from the doctor ‘doing’ healthcare to their patients – it has to be a partnership where they walk the path to healing together. It is hoped that many patients and doctors will read and be inspired by the wisdom and compassion of the doctors who have shared their insights in the pages of this book, Beyond the Stethoscope. Heaven knows we need it.”
Beyond the Stethoscope features the stories of a number of high profile doctors including Dr Geoff Toogood, founder of Crazy Socks for Docs day, an initiative promoting better mental health for doctors, Dr Robin Youngson, anaesthetist and international compassion expert, Mayes’ own husband, award winning Dr Richard Mayes (aka the Dancing Doctor), internationally renowned public health specialist Dr Vikram Patel, and our very own Professor Catherine Crock AM, paediatric oncologist and founder of the Hush Foundation and the Gathering of Kindness, whose work aims to inspire culture change and better patient experiences and outcomes in healthcare settings.
Beyond the Stethoscope – Doctors’ stories of reclaiming hope, heart and healing in medicine, retails at $29.99 and can be purchased at your local bookstore, any online bookstore, or direct from www.lucymayes.com.