By: 12 September 2016
Blood, Sweat & Tears – Becoming a Better Surgeon

All surgeons want to be better surgeons. They work hard to be respected by their peers, appreciated by their patients and valued by their communities. Most of the estimated 200 million surgeries performed worldwide every year go as anticipated, with positive patient outcomes; however, the number of surgical complications and preventable medical errors still remains unacceptably high.

Why are experienced surgeons still creating so many adverse events? More importantly, what can surgeons do to better address the situation? Blood, Sweat & Tears – Becoming a Better Surgeon seeks to answer these questions.

The book provides pragmatic examples on how good surgeons can grow from being technically brilliant to becoming empathetic and capable of providing safe, compassionate and more effective patient care.

Blood, Sweat & Tears follows trauma surgeon Philip Stahel’s 20-year journey from his ‘rookie years’ in internship and residency, to his development as a global patient safety advocate, renowned academician and teacher, and considerate surgeon. He has presented a rich compilation of honest and remarkable first-hand experiences and the collective work of doctors and healthcare leaders to reduce the endemic variation in medical quality.

The life of a surgeon is difficult, says Stahel. Life and limb-threatening problems do not necessarily occur at convenient times. Surgery is not for the weak as it requires physical strength, emotional stamina and unquenchable intellectual curiosity. Underneath these prerequisites lies the most important of all surgical requirements: the patient.

The book touches on why our current patient safety protocols and checklists fail to keep patients safe, and how a physician-driven initiative with credible leadership is needed to build a sustainable culture of patient safety. Written for a wide audience and based on the paradigm that “good judgment comes from experience which comes from poor judgment”, the book provides in-depth coverage of all the critical and timely components of safe surgical care, relates practical tips for improving the quality of partnerships between surgeons and patients, and offers a practical guide on how to reduce the learning curve to becoming a better surgeon.

Blood, Sweat & Tears is a great book, one of a kind, and destined to be a medical classic. What makes the book exceptional is the narrative about a difficult human endeavour, often done imperfectly, by humans who have been told they should be ‘perfect’. This quintessential paradox is why this book is a practical story about life and will likely be of interest and enjoyment to many outside the realm of medicine. Why do our patients so frequently not adhere to our instructions? Putting yourself in the patient’s position creates an essential surgeon–patient bond that underlies an optimal outcome.

Philip Stahel has a very down-to-earth writing style and a compassionate approach to patient care. This remarkable narrative emphasises empathy and communication, provocatively authored by a surgeon; however, as the reader will soon discover, Stahel is not your ordinary surgeon.

I strongly recommend that every healthcare provider read this book. Furthermore, I think it should be mandatory reading annually for every medical student, intern, resident and fellow-in-training, most especially Chapters 3 and 4, which epitomise William Osler’s advice: “Listen to the patient – he is telling you the diagnosis”. In these 20 chapters, the many other insightful quotes alone are worth the purchase price.

Author: Philip F. Stahel

Publisher: TFM Publishing Ltd (UK)

Format: Hardcover, 300 pages

Language: English

Price: £22.50

ISBN: 978-1-91-007927-0

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