Peak Performance Under Pressure: Lessons from a Helicopter Rescue Doctor


 Stephen Hearns


Class Professional Publishing





This book written by an air ambulance (helicopter) doctor is about working under pressure. He is an expert in emergency medicine and has been involved in a number of major incidents. What on earth has that got to do with lawyers? Although written primarily for emergency service professionals, this book is of interest to anyone. And it even has some lessons for our profession, though it is unlikely we will be airlifted across moors and mountains to give legal advice. 


Most of the time we work under pressure and our judgement is open to question and challenge. Experience shows that good people can do bad things when under pressure. There are examples of skilled pilots who failed to respond to instrument warnings simply because there was an overload of information. Lawyers sometimes do similar things. Mistakes often happen despite warning signs. This is not a mental health issue so much as the fact that anyone can get to the point when they have information overload.

Much of the content of this book is about emergency and defence forces and training to an elite level. High-performance organisations need high-performing leaders. We are in a pressurised business; new technology means we are available 24 hours a day, as far as our clients are concerned. That increased during lockdown when face-to-face contact was reduced. 

It is interesting to read how emergency medics deal with pressure and the culture of excellence, training and teamwork. Organisations with a blame culture, and unclear expectations are likely to have low morale.

I struggled with some of the jargon in this book. The fact that emergency workers use checklists like we do I found surprising.

There is a section on how to deal with pressure and to train yourself to achieve more. This is not a self-help book and does not offer easy answers. The profession needs to understand more about why people make mistakes.

David Pickup is a partner at Pickup & Scott Solicitors, Aylesbury

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