Picador – September 2017
97-hour weeks. Life and death decisions.
A constant tsunami of bodily fluids.
And the hospital parking meter earns more than you.
Welcome to the life of a junior doctor.
Scribbled in secret after endless days, sleepless nights and missed weekends, Adam Kay’s diaries provide a no-holds-barred account of his time on the NHS front line. Hilarious, horrifying and heartbreaking, this is everything you wanted to know – and more than a few things you didn’t – about life on and off the hospital ward.
A fast read written in diary format, this book was incredibly funny, Stephen Fry says so on the cover, ‘Painfully funny’ and it really is, which I think is mostly a testament to the brilliant writing, although it must be said; people do some eye openingly strange things which necessitate a trip to A&E. I chuckled my way through this book until its desperately sad end.
Throughout the book Adam Kay makes references to the long, long hours of a junior doctor, in a job that simply cannot be left unfinished. He talks about the salary being poor and the unpaid extra hours worked, virtually every day. And the impact this has on his relationship, his personal life, missed birthdays, stag dos, weddings the list goes on. But Adam Kay is without doubt a storyteller and his diary holds all this among his pages, plus the hilarious accounts with numerous patients, (mostly patients, some colleagues) throughout his decade working for the NHS.
What is shocking and what will hopefully be the legacy of this book is the gruelling, long hours Doctors are expected to work. With no real acknowledgement of health and safety or working time directives. The author highlights the requirement of those sat in front of a screen for 2 hours to take breaks, while no such arrangements existed for the medics, often in charge of departments and frequently making life or death decisions.
And it is hard not to feel sad for the crumbling NHS something that in Britain in our ignorance we continue to feel terribly proud of. It is also hard not to feel sad that Adam Kay felt he could no longer work in this profession, could not live with conditions leaving him wondering, ‘what if…’ if he was less tired, less overworked, less…. would the outcome have changed? Because working in the embarrassing field of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Adam Kay seemed to me to be down to earth and pragmatic about all the wonders of the body – the mess and fluids, the things people like to do – yes think insertions and the things people believe – whale music and eating the placenta. These all make up for a fascinating read told in a matter of fact way, such is life!
Prior to reading I wondered what all the fuss was about, we read these funny stories in the tabloids – if we so choose and there must be countless web sites detailing amusing A & E presentations. But Adam Kay’s first hand account is personal, funny and thought provoking. A terrific mix because this is definitely a book I will be purchasing as a gift for others, a must read, a brilliant memoir and I am certain one of my top reads of 2019!
Have you read This is Going to Hurt? I know I am a little late to this party… what did you think? Please tell me in the comments below and thank you as always for reading.