Pride. Gratitude. Respect. Insecurity. Fear. Panic. Determination. Hope. Bravery. The stories in The Surprising Lives of Small Town Doctors show the full range of human emotion through short essays by Canadian doctors about working in rural settings.
Each province and territory is represented and though you might skip to your home province to read that first, all of the sections have funny, heartbreaking, and insightful stories. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll get a glimpse into the secret lives of doctors -- their frustrations, challenges, and solutions.
As quickly becomes painfully clear, practicing medicine in rural settings is enormously difficult. We all know this to some degree, but reading the personal essays of the people who do drives the point home. Dr. Sandra Wiebe, representing Manitoba, admits she knows how to do a certain procedure “almost exclusively because of YouTube,” and she’s not the only doctor in the book who says they secretly look up things online. They’re expected to know everything and show confidence in the face of the unknown, but doctors are as human as the rest of us.
“It was my job to think outside the box, use what little resources were available, and creatively but efficiently and effectively help patients who relied on me for their health care needs,” says Dr. Danit Fischtein, representing New Brunswick.
The stories the doctors tell are amazing, but so are the doctors themselves who come from an array of backgrounds. Their hometowns are scattered throughout Canada and the world. Many of them have worked in different places, including in professions outside health care. Dr. Fischtein, for example was born in Israel, raised in Canada, worked as a paramedic in Florida and as a nurse in Ontario, completed medical school in England, and “explored medicine in various parts of the world.”
The nurses nearly steal the show in these real life stories. Dr. Warren Bell offers thanks to “the Great Goddess of Nursing,” and while no one else puts it quite that way, there is a great deal of respect shown to rural nurses. As far as I know, there are no plans to continue this book as a series, but I would love to read another collection of short stories from nurses’ perspectives!
Dr. Kevin Wasko from Eastend, Sask., shares a quote from Robert C. Bowman that sums up the stories in the book: “Physicians who are drawn to rural practice want to make a difference in people’s lives and want to have a respected position where you care for a town and the town cares for you.”
The Surprising Lives of Small Town Doctors is an enlightening and entertaining read and a work of love for editor Dr. Paul Dhillon. All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to Médecins Sans Frontièrs / Doctors Without Borders.