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Health & Fitness Health Care Issues

Grief on the Front Lines

Reckoning with Trauma, Grief, and Humanity in Modern Medicine

by (author) Rachel Jones

foreword by Danielle Ofri

North Atlantic Books
Initial publish date
May 2022
Health Care Issues, Grief & Loss, Mental Health
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2022
    List Price

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For readers of Atul Gawande and Siddhartha Mukherjee--a timely, vital exploration of the burnout, grief, depression, and trauma that America’s healthcare system engenders among doctors, nurses, and medical workers.

Practicing medicine is traumatic: coping with the death of a patient, sharing a life-changing diagnosis, grieving futility in the face of a no-win situation. The emotional burden placed on doctors, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners is profound...and yet their suffering is often displaced, dismissed, or unrecognized.

Here, Rachel Jones breaks the silence, daring to imagine a future where every healthcare worker is provided with the right tools to process grief, the space to integrate trauma, and--most importantly--the knowledge that they’re not alone. Drawing from the latest research and more than 100 interviews with healthcare professionals across different specialties, backgrounds, and institutions, Jones identifies how US medicine fails its workers--and how it can do better.

Speaking with urgency about the systemic shortcomings that contribute to widespread depression, burnout, suicide, and PTSD among physicians and nurses--a culture of stoicism, the pressure of 80-hour workweeks--Grief on the Front Lines shares the stories of everyday healthcare heroes and offers a glimpse into the educational programs, retreats, therapeutic offerings, and peer support networks already building a hopeful new culture of medicine that cares for its own.

About the authors

Contributor Notes

RACHEL JONES is a freelance writer whose nonfiction has appeared in Time magazine, The Lancet, The Delacorte Review, Scientific American, The Antigonish Review, Columbia Journalism Review and many other publications. She obtained a BA in Sociology and Studio Art from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. After earning her MS from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Jones spent more than four years as a reporter in Caracas, Venezuela, including 1.5 years as a correspondent for The Associated Press. More recently, she has been exploring a longstanding interest in death and dying as a staff writer for SevenPonds, a website and online magazine that informs the public about a wide array of issues related to end of life. Jones, whose book Grief on the Front Lines is supported by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, is the recipient of a Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship and an Overseas Press Club Foundation Scholarship. You can learn more about her work at

Editorial Reviews

"This book—birthed during the pandemic of the century—is filled with painful truths about the American healthcare system that sound the clarion call for change."
—JESSICA ZITTER, MD, author of Extreme Measures
"Urgent, powerful, healing. US healthcare has reached a crisis point where those who care for others need care for themselves to recover from epidemic levels of burnout. Grief on the Front Lines shows how that caring work can and must be done."
—THERESA BROWN, PhD, RN, author of the New York Times best seller The Shift

"Grief on the Front Lines is a clarion call for a more compassionate approach to medicine—not only for our patients, but for ourselves as medical professionals."
—ANTHONY MAZZARELLI, MD, Co-president and CEO of Cooper University Health Care and co-author of Compassionomics

"Rachel Jones takes us into the lives of the remarkable men and women who stand with us at times of loss and death and brings their own pain to life. A harrowing and unforgettable book."
—MICHAEL SHAPIRO, professor of journalism at Columbia University

"Honoring the experiences and attendant grief of healthcare workers, Rachel Jones provides well-sourced documentation of the events of the pandemic and provides a call to action to bring a more compassionate healthcare system into being."
—RANA AWDISH, MD, author of In Shock

"Grief on the Front Lines could be called The Real Story Behind Healthcare. May this book serve to inspire healing and reveal that we are never alone in the struggle."
—JONATHAN BARTELS, RN, innovator of the Medical Pause

"... an invaluable contribution to the literature on trauma and loss."
—ALEX STONE, author of Fooling Houdini
"...a superb overview of the state of palliative care that belongs on your 'must-read' list to really understand the experience of these heroes."
—WILLIAM SPEAR, end-of-life educator, Fortunate Blessings Foundation, Second Response Initiative, and Care for the Caregiver Program

"Sobering, heartbreaking, and filled with hope, Grief on the Front Lines is a must-read not only for every doctor, administrator, and healthcare worker, but for everyone subject to illness and death. It's a seed of a new paradigm we cannot afford to miss."
—VERA DE CHALAMBERT, MTS, religious scholar, writer, and spiritual storyteller

[This book] provides a much-needed exploration of the effects of trauma and grief on the very people we rely on to help us heal ... and shares strategies that healthcare workers can employ to support their own healing and give them strength to continue their work."
—REV. DON CHATFIELD, PhD, Lead Pastor, All Souls Interfaith Gathering, Shelburne, Vermont