“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.”
As the Daily Express is quoted on the back of this book – “if you read one book this year, make it this one” – I couldn’t agree more.
This Is Going to Hurt isn’t the typical kind of book I’d pick up. Before this, I’d never really read anything to do with medicine, doctors or hospitals as I’m pretty squeamish – and I have a tendency to think I have every illness they talk about. But, after plenty of recommendations from friends, and an explosion of eye-catching images of the book all over my Instagram feed, I thought I’d give it a go with the full intentions of putting it down the second I diagnosed myself with some disease.
As soon as I started reading, the honesty and hilarity of this book completely took over any fears I had. I stopped thinking about myself and was totally engrossed in Adam Kay’s story. Presented as snippets of his diary from his time as a Junior Doctor, and helpfully organised chronologically via the different positions he held throughout his career, it’s a quick read – I finished it in less than 24 hours! It becomes ever so hard to put down as you think “oh, I’ll read just one more entry” which ends up being ten more, and eventually another chapter, and then another. Before I knew it, I’d finished the book and was left entertained, informed, and heartbroken.
On the surface, it is absolutely laugh-out-loud funny; it had me reading out passages to my boyfriend so he could laugh along with me. See: story about ‘degloving’ on page 16. The way Adam Kay recites his stories is brilliant. It gives you such an insight into the behind the scenes aspect of doctors’ day to day jobs, revealing the tirade of funny moments one encounters when dealing with members of the public every day. From finding out the weird and wonderful predicaments people get themselves into, to Kay expertly making light of objectively stressful or serious situations, it’s sure to have you chuckling over and over again.
Of course, on most pages, there are also heavy, emotional and truly heartbreaking moments. A book about life on the NHS front line is never going to be without tales of death, illness and pain. However, this is one of the things that makes this book so great. It really reveals the vast scope of issues that medical staff deal with everyday. It hits home that they face some of the scariest and saddest parts of life in most aspects of their job, but they carry on day after day. Although I had a great respect for NHS workers before, this book only cemented it.
Importantly, it also gives you an invaluable insight into the medical profession. As someone fascinated by medicine, but way too squeamish and so very poor at quick decision making to ever pursue it as a career, this book was absolutely perfect. I learnt so much from both the main bulk of the novel, and the incredibly informative and funny footnotes. For weeks after reading this book, I felt like I could chat with my science-degree-holding friends and somewhat understand what they were talking about!
As I said, I have such an interest in medicine and if I had been suited to that career, I would have loved to focus on obs and gynae, as Adam Kay did. A large portion of this book covered women’s health, pregnancy and birth, and as a lover of One Born Every Minute, and every other show of this genre under the sun, this was right up my street. I often think, if I had a few different personality traits, I would have loved to have been a midwife and this book helped me live my dreams in my head!
Above all, this book completely opened my eyes to the lives of NHS workers and the state of the NHS in general. A lot of what I read has stuck with me ever since; the lack of work-life balance, the sacrifices doctors make and the great under-funding and absence of respect for medical staff from the government. The afterword of this book contains a very poignant letter to the Secretary of State for Health that I really recommend people read.
So many people have friends and family that work for the NHS, myself included, but whether you do or don’t, this book is 100% worth the read. It left me craving more. And luckily, Adam Kay published a second book, ‘Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas.
“Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat… but 1.4 million NHS staff are heading off to work. In this perfect present for anyone who has ever set foot in a hospital, Adam Kay delves back into his diaries for a hilarious, horrifying and sometimes heartbreaking peek behind the blue curtain. Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas is a love letter to all those who spend their festive season on the front line, removing babies and baubles from the various places they get stuck, at the most wonderful time of the year.”
The next instalment in Adam Kay’s diaries did not disappoint. A very quick read – only 142 pages – you can devour this in an afternoon.
Focused on working for the NHS over Christmas, all the humour, knowledge and sentiments from the first book are carried over. You can expect to learn about all the things people get stuck in all manner of places (honestly, you wouldn’t believe some of them…), Christmas babies and the reality of staying, and working, in a hospital over the holiday period. This is another excellent insight into the NHS front line.
Although we’re a while away from Christmas as yet, this makes a wonderful gift, or the perfect treat for yourself if, like me, you were left craving more after reading This Is Going to Hurt.
I cannot recommend both of these books enough. The humour and education provided is unlike anything I’ve read before; I’d love for everyone to experience it too.
Have you read either of these books? What did you think?
Do you have any similar recommendations for me? I’m already looking for more like this!