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Something for the Pain: Compassion and Burnout in the ER
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Something for the Pain: Compassion and Burnout in the ER

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  856 ratings  ·  106 reviews
“What makes this inspiring medical memoir stand out is the courageous measure of Austin’s humanity.”—Publishers Weekly

In this eye-opening account of life in the ER, Paul Austin recalls how the daily grind of long, erratic shifts and endless hordes of patients with sad stories sent him down a path of bitterness and cynicism. Gritty, powerful, and ultimately redemptive, Some
Paperback, 304 pages
Published September 8th 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Something for the Pain is basically a collection of essays about the author's experiences as an emergency room doctor. They deal with not only the expected horrible traumas and tragedies of the emergency room seen by Austin, but also with his struggles to combine family with the often overwhelming demands of his job. What emerges is a picture of a real human being, with strenghts and weaknesses shown. Some of Dr. Austin's stories show him at his best, while others reveal mean, petty or uncaring ...more
I was surprised at how many people seemed to love this book, when I really didn't like it much at all. I'd describe it as an ER doctor's journey from being a huge jerk to being slightly less of a jerk. As one example, the author complains about his inability to sleep at home during the daytime, growing ever more furious with his young children for having the audacity to laugh or watch TV. He also complains about tossing and turning because the room isn't dark enough. You'd think the guy would be ...more
In the first half of this book, I craved more in-depth stories from the ER and the medical terms and processes that go along with each case. It was what I had expected from the title, and of course my medical interest run deep. But by the end, I came to really appreciate the book as a memoir of a man's life rather than just his career.

On a personal note, the fact that the author chose to go back to college after several years of hiatus and a variety of fairly unrelated jobs and pursue a medical
Dr. Paul Austin's account of his years in the ER. He mixes tales of patients and treatment in the ER with his own struggles with stress, shift work, and family troubles. I expected this book to have a lot more self-aggrandizing or guilt trips in it, but Austin comes across as very thoughtful, able to laugh at himself, be patient with others, and note his own strengths and weaknesses.
Among the comments on the back of this book is one by a physician who is also an assistant professor of emergency medicine. She states, "If you are considering a career in emergency medicine, you must read this book." I believe that is probably excellent advice. I would add that, if you think you might end up in an ER someday being treated by someone who has made a career of emergency medicine, you should also read this book.

Dr. Austin's writing is simple and straight forward, and he is honest a
This is the most human doctor book I've ever read. This is high praise not only because I have read almost every g-damn doctor book out there, because those people are usually flesh-colored robots who can't write for shit.

In this memoir, Paul Austin curses, loses it, lusts after his wife, and beautifully communicates the trajectory of an ER doctor, from training to practice, focusing on how to maintain compassion (sanity) in the face of the meat grinder that is shift work in medicine. He also cr
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Erika Blair
I was expecting a book about the weariness of those in the ER...the 'burnout' so to speak, of those in the medical profession who deal with drug addicts, homeless with no access to or knowledge of medical care, or the victims of violent crimes. The exhaustion of dealing not with the child with sniffles but the parent who demands antibiotics.

Instead, I got his prejudice towards mentally handicapped children. His whining of long hours that should be reserved for interns. His sex life. While I'm g
Mike Daly
Something for the Pain: One Doctor's Account of Life and Death in the ER
I enjoyed the book a lot. It was an easy read and gave me a new insight into the life of a doctor - not just the glamour of Grey's Anatomy or E.R. It was well written and enjoyable to read and we see the sacrifices of those who chose a medical career. Well worth the time.
Ellen Keim
I almost gave this book two stars, but I did enjoy (if that's the right word) his stories from the ER and appreciated his stark honesty about what it takes to be a good ER doctor. The parts where he talks about his life outside of the ER (i.e., his home life) are less compelling, but still germane, as this is not strictly about the ER, but more an account of a man's life (so far). On a literary level: he showed instances of fine, sensitive writing, but marred the effect with passages that were p ...more
I know that what I see in ERs on television isn't going to be an accurate portrayal of what goes on in them, so this book sounded interesting. And it was. Paul Austin does a great job not only of telling the true stories--some funny, some heartwrenching, some almost unbelievable--of what happens during his ER shifts at a hospital in Durham, NC, but also deftly interweaving their effects on his personal life. The book covers thirteen years of his life in the ER and aptly conveys both the nervousn ...more
Had this book on my 'to read' list for a while and picked it up as soon as I saw it in paperback. This book was a very fast read thanks to the author's smooth writing style, so of course the worst part was that the end came up so soon.
I felt the author's blending of his personal life with his professional life worked well because it showed what life is really like from both perspectives in this sort of career. At times, I lost track of both time and place in the book such that I wasn't sure whic
In his new memoir, Something for the Pain: One Doctor’s Account of Life and Death in the ER, Paul Austin takes a clear-eyed look at the profession he has chosen—that of a doctor in a metropolitan Emergency Room, who frequently works what other (less superstitious) professionals might term “the Graveyard Shift.”

Within the covers of this thoughtful and moving debut, Austin graciously allows us an insider’s look at the struggles and rewards of his job, as well as the toll it can take on a growing f
So I'm very conflicted about this book. This is non-fiction, and I found the story of this doctor very intriguing. I enjoyed his stories of life as an ER doctor. I did not like his use of bad language. There is an f-word averaging about every other page. There are some other gems. I'm thinking that in another book this would be disgustingly offensive. Then I thought that this book is about stress. You read it and feel his stress. There are a lot of emotions that go with stress like anger, disapp ...more
The subtitle on the paperback edition is "Compassion and Burnout in the ER." This was a good change because that's really what the book is about. "Compassion" is a word that gets sentimentalized a lot but it's hard work -- behaving compassionately when you don't feel like it, not just experiencing compassion as an emotion. I'm grateful to the author for looking into what it takes to get there.
I don't know why I like reading books (and watching documentaries) about the work of physicians. I remember aspiring to be a doctor for many years as a youngster: the "helping people" part spoke to me, as well as the opportunity physicians have to use their classroom-learned knowledge (and eventually, their own experience) to treat every unique individual and case (which is also a creativity-thing). In any case, Dr. Paul Austin possesses another talent: writing. In Something for the Pain, Austin ...more
This book is about Dr. Paul Austin's life in emergency medicine and the affect it has on his life outside of medicine. It is an interesting look at the first line of hospital defense - the weary shift doctors who staff the ER. It is also a glimpse into the life of the family of an ER doc - the affect of hours without sleep, strange schedules, and life and death decisions every day.

I was able to meet Dr. Austin at our book club meeting. I am pleased to say he is the funny, quirky, good doc that h
Jul 02, 2014 Donna rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Donna by: Rebecca Levy
Not all books need to be 5 stars to be good. Paul Austin's quick, matter-of-fact, and bravely honest memoir is not a work of art, and it's won't be added to any Must Read Before You Die lists. It isn't written particularly well, and some themes and metaphors are a bit clumsy. Still, that doesn't mean you can't find value in spending a day (seriously, it's a quick read) with an ER doctor/firefighter/construction worker; seeing what his life is like, listening to his work stories and insights gain ...more
So, I'm conflicted about this book. Overall, I feel like it's a good addition to the field of memoirs from healthcare workers. I really love the way in which he is able to describe the issues in healthcare that I feel are difficult to illuminate: the unbelievable pressure to provide excellent, compassionate care to people who don't appreciate it or take care of themselves, the current state of medico-legal concerns and then the more personal: sleep deprivation and its effect on sanity. I relate ...more
Estel Ang
Sep 06, 2010 Estel Ang rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: premed and medical students especially
I have read this book twice and each time it has been a sort of guide to me: not only by revealing the casual but strangely comforting idiosyncrasies of the health professional's world, but also by the author himself entering it with every sense piqued, romantic and heroic notions still intact, and with purpose and excitement and anticipation of discovery, redemption, and healing from the chance meetings and personal intersections of a busy emergency department. Paul Austin, more than any other ...more
This is more of a memoir of the life of the doctor than a mere collection of stories from the ER. I enjoyed reading about the life of the shift-working doctor, a dedicated husband and father. Dr. Austin spent a good part of the book attempting to balance his life as a husband and father with his life in the hospital. The stories of the ER patients are both tragic and inspiring, as Dr. Austin writes with compassion as he attempts to understand the lives of the patients he sees for a very brief pe ...more
Erika Blair
I was expecting a book about the weariness of those in the ER...the 'burnout' so to speak, of those in the medical profession who deal with drug addicts, homeless with no access to or knowledge of medical care, or the victims of violent crimes. The exhaustion of dealing not with the child with sniffles but the parent who demands antibiotics.

Instead, I got his prejudice towards mentally handicapped children. His whining of long hours that should be reserved for interns. His sex life. While I'm g
This book was an impulse pickup at the library from the new arrivals shelf; it seemed promising and proved engaging considering my interests in medicine and memoir. The text's biggest shortcoming is the author's failure to sincerely reveal the vulnerability he endlessly skirts around. A preventable mistake is buffered by the attending physician's refusal to admit the patient prior to his myocardial infarction; a strained marriage is over-sentimentalized (genuinely, but excessive nonetheless) in ...more
Classic stories about working in the ER, which I enjoyed. Was hoping for something a little more hard-hitting, but I think my expectations were just too high. Was hoping that he would have some amazing realization about how to sustain yourself in the ED and deal with tough situations, but I guess that's just because I'm looking for some easy answers about that right now. He did offer some insight into how difficult, yet important, it can be to be both impartial when necessary, but emotionally in ...more
Liz Dean
This book is by a Durham physician and writer who practices emergency medicine. What I liked best about this book was his explanation of how important sleep is and how difficult his personal sleep deprivation became for his family and for his performance in the ER. (But mostly, just his family.) Not only does he do something important by reminding us how sleep deprivation compromises our lives, but his depiction of his relationship with sleep almost seems like a monk's relationship with prayer o ...more
Durham Reads selection 2009. AVWC Bookclub selection based on Durham Reads! My 2-star rating mainly reflects my squeamishness of medical scenarios. Although I didn't particularly ENJOY reading the book -especially before bedtime - the book is quite readable and I do feel I gained valuable insight into some of the realities of ER work. I look forward to our book club discussion this week to see what others got from it and themes we may touch upon - stress in the workplace; stress of night shifts; ...more
I really liked this little memoir. I know that I'm biased, as I was probably the most obsessed youngster with the TV show ER, have bought anatomy and medicine books "for fun" for quite some time and still love the idea of becoming Dr. Dale.
This is a collection of stories, maybe more like essays about this ER doctor's experience... Ranging from excitement and adrenaline, to sleep deprivation and hostility, to life and death, compassion and connection.
And even though this book didn't really brin
A.J. Knauss
Worth a read. A friend at work loaned this to me and as a fellow ER doc I found it very interesting. Paul is honest about his struggles and he reflects on his patients in candid and humbling ways. The insights are not profound but they are very human. I was particularly touched by some of his anecdotes from training where he knows he is in the midst of life and death moments yet is so dog tired he can't say anything deep. The story arc is solid as he moves through his career. It would be a pleas ...more
Well paced and interesting account of working in the ER and struggling to deal with the stress and chaos of that environment. There are plenty of interesting medical stories (with just enough detail and not too much) told from the doctor's point of view. These are mixed with his experiences at home struggling to balance work and family and find a way to deal with the emotions that his job brings. The result is a very human portrait of the ER doctor. I appreciated his willingness to share not onl ...more
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Paul Austin was named a 2007 tuition scholar at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. A former firefighter, he has more than twenty-five years of experience working in emergency rooms. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.

This Paul Austin is not the same Paul Austin who wrote, "Return of the Lost One," or who co-wrote "I Am a Woman." If anyone knows how to remove these titles from my profile, please l
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