There has been quite a lot of hype about this book, but at first I wasn’t sure that I wanted to read it. Firstly, things rarely live up to the hype. Secondly, I feel I’ve had enough of doctors, the NHS and hospitals to last me a lifetime. Of course, curiosity eventually got the better of me, and I’m glad it did because I loved it! It’s not easy for a book to make me laugh but this really tested by bladder control.
What’s It About?
This Is Going To Hurt : Diaries of a Junior Doctor – by Adam Kay
Adam Kay spent 6 years in training and 6 years on wards in NHS hospitals, with some private work to supplement his shifts on occasion. This book makes use of notes he made in his log journal, which is something that doctors are advised to complete as part of their ‘reflective practice’. What you get in this book are basically diary entries over a few years of his works in NHS hospitals.
We’re taken through his journey as a House Officer, his three posts as Senior House Officer, the four posts as Registrar, then Senior Registrar, and finally the “aftermath” as he hangs up his stethoscope.
When he became an SHO (Senior House Officer) he decided to specialise in obstetrics and gynaecology. This is where the bulk of the book is focused.
The layout of the book is noteworthy. As he recounts his tales on the ward, he uses an asterisk here and there throughout the book, so you’ll find a tiny star or two on most pages. At the bottom he elaborates or explains the point.
The author makes note of a few pertinent things around that time (2010 and the years prior) that affected the NHS, like the European Working Time Directive. He mentions the Health Secretary (with a clear tone of distaste that I also share) but no names. Of course, more recent events happening in the NHS are not covered and the use of technology is rather outdated when you read this because, as noted, this reflects working practices typically 10 years or more ago. Nonetheless, it’s still very relevant now and I imagine a lot hasn’t changed all that much, or has changed for the worse, where junior doctors are concerned.
He covers, in less detail, some aspects of his personal life outside of the hospital, so we also learn a little of how the job impacted his social life and relationships.
Kay writes intelligently, confidently and concisely, making this an absolute joy to read. It’s easy to keep turning the pages, even when you’re cringing, crying with laughter, or horrified by the gross parts.
The layout of the book is distinctive, and I like the use of asterisks to provide further explanation, an anecdote or a punchline to the story. I tended to read the text at the bottom as soon as I spotted the asterisk, but some might find it easier to read it at the end of the page rather than have to search for where you left off afterwards. The format is memorable and works really well without resulting in disjointed momentum as you read.
His observations and comments are abrasive, cutting and insightful. You learn a lot so by the end of the book I felt more educated in the working of both gynae and the NHS. I like that Kay doesn’t hold back; he’s honest and open, even when it’s politically incorrect and a little risqué. It’s eye-opening and thought-provoking, but it’s not too angering. I thought I might end up more enraged with every page, but the humour off-sets this very well.
We learn more about the working patterns, shift hours, expectations put on doctors, wages. We discover the myriad of conditions patients present with. We read of how things can go very wrong, how things can go miraculously well, and everything in between.
Thankfully, Adam doesn’t reflect the experience I, and many of us, have had with doctors and surgeons. He actually sounds like a very efficient, thorough and compassionate doctor. It gives us hope there are indeed good ones out there!
His insights as to how the role impacted his life and how the demands of a being a junior doctor also affects the lives of the patients were both eye-opening and distressing. Yes, there are enviable and sometimes eye-watering pay rates for some Senior Registras and various other specialists, but is it worth what doctors have to go through in the years prior? It’s not surprising many staff walk before they get there. These are things that need to be said and appreciated. I hope the NHS trusts and bosses and all the highly paid staff in suits who make the decisions without having to live the consequences read this book.
He’s sharp as a scalpel with his humour. I was so surprised by this, partly because I didn’t anticipate it being a funny book, and partly because I very rarely find books funny when others do. I don’t want to cover any examples here as I don’t want to ruin anything. It’s smart, sarcastic and serious, all rolled into one. There was a laugh on most pages, so be warned if you have a weak bladder.
About The Author
Adam first worked for several years as a junior doctor, then went on to becoming a writer for film and TV. With this debut bestselling book he’s also made himself into a comedian, and he has taken to doing live talks in the UK this year.
It’s perhaps unsurprising that this has won various awards, including a triple winner of the Specsavers National Book Awards 2018. It was a Sunday Times Number 1 Bestseller for a record breaking and impressive 42 weeks. Apparently there’s also talk of the BBC making this book into a comedy-drama.
There’s also a heck of a lot of praise, and various quotes can be found within the first few pages of the book, including :
“Revolting, uplifting… but also devastating” – Daily Telegraph
“Hilariously gruesome” – Sunday Times (Humour Book of the Year)
“So funny and important it should be given out on prescription” – Guardian
I’d absolutely agree with it being a gruesome, hilarious and important read. It really is one I think you need to read for yourself to fully appreciate its impact.
Who’s the book for? I would be inclined to say anyone and everyone of an adult age, but those with ‘white coat syndrome’ (aka severe fear & hate of all things medical and hospitals) may not be able to stomach it too well. It’s a great gift idea, too; I’ve bought this for two people and they’ve absolutely loved it. It’s surprising in the best possible way.
Would I recommend? Absolutely! ★★★★★
This is available as a Kindle ebook, audiobook, hardback & paperback.
Have you read This Is Going To Hurt? Is it on your TBR? I’d love to know what you think!