Reading as an Occupation: What I read in March

Early this year, I really felt that I had lost my reading mojo. For the first couple of months of 2021, I leaned into comfort reading and while my reads were lovely, they were really not very OT related. I am slowly getting back into reading a variety of genres, with some books touching on concepts that impact occupational therapy practitioners. One book was even solely focused on writing a research article!

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Publisher : Picador; 13th edition (January 1, 2015)

I have to be honest, I needed to get in the proper headspace to read this book. The concepts of aging and dying were areas that I felt I needed to navigate to  make me a better occupational therapist, but it is difficult to read these topics and not think about one’s own mortality. I can assure you that this book about aging and end of life due to illness actually works to make you enjoy and appreciate life.

Gawande addressed more than aging and dying in Being Mortal. He started off with aging and how we supported aging individuals in past societies and how we support the elderly today. One point Gawande made that struck me was that we currently focus on denying older individuals their way of life in exchange for our concept of safety. Institutionalizing the elderly, where the individual loses control of their habits and routines in exchange for our perception of safety does not seem like a wholly fair exchange when there are other options to ensure safety in the community. Another important point he explained well is the impact of falls on the elderly population.  

Gawande also presented how to approach dying in a manner that allows the practitioner to adequately address the needs of clients in an optimal manner. He pointed out the role of hospitals as edifices with practitioners that work to reverse dying at all costs, in many cases prolonging suffering more than prolonging life.

The statistics presented throughout the book on what constitutes healthy aging and dying provides a clear understanding with clients that are in either one or both of these categories.  Every page provides the reader with concepts that are sure to shift your viewpoint on aging and death, which allows healthcare professionals to support clients and families holistically. I enjoy books that provide concrete steps to meet the needs of clients and this book more than delivers with informing and supporting healthcare professionals navigate these difficult areas.

As occupational therapy practitioners, we focus on our clients having meaningful lives and this is a common thread that is throughout Being Mortal, really until the end of the book. This is a book that all healthcare professionals should read to support clients and families when supporting an aging family member or one that is dealing with end-of-life issues due to illness.

Questions for occupational therapy curriculum or an OT book club:

  1. As occupational therapy practitioners, what can be our role with helping the aging population age in place? Based on Gawande’s points on safety, what areas would you evaluate in the home to maximize time spent at home?
  2. The impact of falls is discussed throughout Being Mortal. What is the impact of falls on overall health and long-term well-being? Based on the information presented by Gawande on the impact of falls, how can fall prevention be implemented in the home and community?
  3.  Do you believe that there is a role for occupational therapy practitioner on a hospice team? Based on what Gawande presented, why or why not?
  4. If you are working with a client who has end-stage cancer, what would be the focus of your evaluation? If the client qualifies for occupational therapy services, what are 3 interventions you would provide the client during a therapy session?

Rating: 4 out of 4. This book is highly recommended for all health care professionals to support clients during the aging process and during the end-of-life period due to illness.

A World Without Email by Cal Newport

Publisher : Portfolio (March 2, 2021)

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a huge fan of Cal Newport. I have read about four of his books, and I produce more work using the strategies he provides in his books. Newport provides concrete steps to get you away from the hamster wheel of non-productivity and on the road to full productivity. When A World Without Email came out, I was at a saturation point with email. So, this book was released just in time!

I am old enough to remember when email first became available mainstream. I was in college. Honestly, I did not check my email for months on end and did alright. One reason I did not check my email was because we literally had to use DOS commands to get into our email, and I could not be bothered! Currently, email access is a lot easier, but is that a good thing?

Newport presented his case that email negatively impacts productivity, pulling in human evolution, administration, and research to support his points. He lays out the statistics on what comes in our inbox (sometimes 120+ emails a DAY) and the amount of time it takes to respond to these messages (HOURS in a workday and HOURS after the work day ends). The larger issue that Newport has with email is that it shifts our attention throughout the day and the brain really does not have the capacity to multitask.

He provided stories of individuals that have curtailed email usage at their companies and the impact on productivity. He also provided concrete steps in place of emails that allow for communication at work without negatively impacting productivity. As with all Newport books, the material can be read in 1-2 days because his books just make sense, and his writing style is captivating. He presents research, but also real-world stories that are applicable to the concept or strategy that is being presented.

With so many students and clinicians dealing with technology overload, learning ways of not letting your inbox control you is pivotal in decreasing stress levels while increasing productivity.

Rating: 4 out of 4. This book is highly recommended to help with curtailing the inbox overwhelm to increase productivity.

Writing Your Journal Article in 12 weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success by Wendy Laura Belcher.

Publisher : University of Chicago Press; Second edition (June 7, 2019)

The name says it all. Another book that serves as a blueprint for accomplishing a certain goal. In this case, it is publishing an article in 12 weeks. It is easy to see why this book is well-known and highly recommended. Belcher breaks down the mission of writing an article for a peer-reviewed journal in clear, weekly steps.

This book is all business and no fluff. The individual who would like to publish their article needs to come with a rough draft in hand and an understanding that each week these are the steps to follow. The table of contents and general tasks can be found here: Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks Book – Wendy Laura Belcher (wendybelcher.com) Once you view the table of contents, it will be clear that this book is a must have for any individual that wants to publish research articles.

Belcher is not a healthcare professional, she is a professor of comparative early modern African and European literatures, with a joint appointment in the departments of Comparative Literature and African American Studies at Princeton University. However, her work transcends professions because she provides a sequence to follow to get your paper published in 12 weeks!

Rating: 4 out of 4. This book is a blueprint for effectively writing a peer-reviewed quality manuscript in a brief period of time.

All the Devils are Here by Louise Penny

Publisher : Minotaur Books (September 1, 2020)

This was the choice of my library’s book club. Louise Penny fans are very much enthralled by her writing, Inspector Gamache, her ability to tell a story, and having all things French in the background. All the Devils are Here is set in Paris, which was a draw for me. With an interest in visiting Paris one day, reading about the City, food, language, and overall scenery was satisfying and informative!

This story followed Inspector Gamache to determine the person who attempted to kill his godfather and the godfather’s acquaintance. While I was interested in the mystery of this whodunnit, I did not find the story captivating. There were many nuggets of suspense that I felt was going to drastically change the dynamic of the story and it did not happen. This is definitely a light mystery and I am more of a heavy mystery or psychological thriller type of person.  I honestly finished the book solely to discuss it with my book club.

Rating: 2 out of 4. This is a good book to discuss in a group. I was not captivated by the story, but there are many points in the story that can lead to discussion. Also, Penny is a good writer, but the storytelling component leaves me wanting a bit more from the storylines.

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