Review: This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay

Opening sentence: “In 2010, after six years of training and a further six years on the wards, I resigned from my job as a junior doctor.”

Let me start by saying this is hands-down one of the best memoirs I’ve read. Adam Kay honestly and succinctly lays bare the harsh realities of being a junior doctor in the NHS, ‘the hours are terrible, the pay is terrible, the conditions are terrible; you’re underappreciated, unsupported, disrespected and frequently physically endangered. But there’s no better job in the world.’ That may seem like a contradiction, and yes, it is, but what it really is, is a testament to the bloody amazing people who, despite those conditions, dedicate so much of their life to being doctors. They sacrifice relationships, friendships, uproot their lives every year when they have to move hospitals and frequently work to the point of exhaustion, all to help people and save lives.

The reason this book is so brilliant – aside from the wonderfully juicy insights into the life of a doctor – is Adam’s perfectly pitched comedic writing style. From his wry take on grim situations, “I was rather hoping Kay Syndrome might be a more glamorous discovery than someone shitting themselves inside out during induction of labour, but perhaps it’s a price worth paying for immortalization in the textbooks.” To hilarious accounts of his day-to-day work, ‘Just when I was thinking it had been a while since the last episode of ‘unexpected objects stuck in orifices’, today a patient in her twenties presents to A&E unable to retrieve a bottle she’d put up there.’ And ‘Crash call to a Labour ward room. The husband was dicking around on a birthing ball and fell off, cracking his skull on the ground.’ You will laugh out loud on at least every other page, so maybe read it at home, unless you want copious stares from strangers thinking you’re slightly unhinged. It’s not all light-hearted stuff though, as when you’re literally dealing with life and death, sometimes situations will take a tragic turn. He recounts dealing with still-births and the awful situation that made him re-think his career as a doctor.

On a personal note, Adam was a Obstetrics and Gynecology doctor and this is the one area of medicine I can relate to as doctors assisted in the birth of both my babies. I was so grateful they were there and did such an amazing job, but little did I know what they were putting up with on a day-to-day basis, makes me feel bad I didn’t send them thank-you cards now!

As ridiculous as some of Adam’s patients and the scenarios he found himself in were, the skill here is that while writing about them, he never comes across as malicious or ill-meaning. He may well have been ground down by the system, but he cared about every person that asked for his help and always did everything to the best of his ability. It’s such a shame that talented, caring doctors like Adam are worked to the bone and not given the support they need to continue with their career. To be pushed to a point where they feel the only option they have – for their own sanity and quality of life is to leave the profession they trained so hard for. Our doctors do amazing things, they should be supported and celebrated and it’s a massive flaw in the system that this is not the case. Sadly, it doesn’t look like things are going to change for NHS doctors anytime soon.

As insightful and thought-provoking as it is hilarious (it comes as no surprise to learn Adam’s now working as a comedy writer), I cannot recommend this book enough.

Rating: 5/5

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