After several years as a firefighter, Paul Austin decided to return to school and become a doctor.  Both his training as firefighter and a somewhat late start at medical school gave him an unusual perspective on his selected specialty-emergency medicine.  The book chronicles a wide variety of surprises, learning moments, and challenges from his years in the emergency room.  These are interspersed with vignettes about the interrupted home life of an emergency physician rotating into night duty three to four times a month.  The pace is lively and the stories confessional in the best sense-rich with reflection on what he has learned, often at great cost to his resilient wife and three children, one with Down syndrome.  A strong theme in the book is the importance of developing strategies for sustaining humanity and compassion even under intense pressure to be quick, clinical, and detached. 


The stories are well told and thought-provoking.  The voice is informal, personal, and accessible.  It is a book that will engage anyone who has had reason to walk through the doors of an emergency room, or has had to accommodate in some way to the demanding and irregular schedule of an emergency doctor.  It might be especially helpful for young people considering emergency medicine or EMT work.  The writer's approach is humble, good-humored, and laced with gratitude for a life of unforgettable lessons.


W. W. Norton

Place Published

New York



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