Review: Ben Bravery – The Patient Doctor

The Patient Doctor
Ben Bravery

“At the age of twenty-eight, with his Beijing-based science communications business doing well and a new relationship blossoming, Ben Bravery woke from a colonoscopy to be told he had stage 3 colorectal cancer…. Now, driven by his experience on both sides of the healthcare system, this patient-turned-doctor gives a no-holes-barred account of how he overcame the trauma of his illness to study medicine and shares what he believes student doctors, doctors, patients and their families need to do to ensure that the medical system puts the patient at the very heart of healthcare every day.”

Hmm, this was an interesting book, but not an outstanding one. While it was interesting to see the way that Ben-as-a-patient affected Ben-as-a-medical-student, it wasn’t anything particularly new to me. I also already had some pretty in-depth knowledge about how broken the medical system is in Australia.

The medical training provided to doctors in Australia is good in some ways (covers a lot of important information, very physiology/anatomy based) but bad in others. It seems to pay lip service to making compassionate great communicators out of doctors. As Ben exposes again in his book, there’s just so much crammed in and an idea that providing patient-centred care will take longer in a workplace where doctors are already overwhelmed.

It was fascinating to me that I saw the changing hospital/specialist centre size from both a patient (this book) and a nurse (A Caring Life) perspective. I also find it of interest because we usually assume that larger medical clinics will be better specialised to help people, even if this isn’t necessarily accurate. I felt that Ben’s attitude and understanding of his condition (and the humour he had to offer) was impacted by doctors the most. Now I’ll be waiting for a fully-fledged doctor’s thoughts on the system at the time!

I’d love to see a memoir or non-fiction from a higher up hospital administrator who is responsible for some of the funding and why student doctors / specialists / surgeons / every medical professional in the system are so overworked. I’m all for making sure doctors aren’t unemployed, but being underemployer or overworked is not good enough.

I am grateful that I live in Australia and healthcare is free. That’s reason enough that I might just be happiest with whoever I see in a hospital. What Ben advocates and encourages through his book is for patients and their families to feel confident speaking up for themselves. That’s something easier said than done, but I think it could be done.

I’d recommend this for readers interested in what it looks like to be a complicated cancer patient and the beginning trials of medical school. There’s some humour to keep it light, even if overall I think the book is a picture of the complicated nature of healthcare in Australia.

Hachette | 29 June 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback

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