Book Review: This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor, Adam Kay

What’s that saying about “keep a diary and one day it will keep you”? When comedian Adam Kay was a junior doctor he used to write down his thoughts at the end of some very long days. Following a successful stage show weaving some of the most memorable entries together he has now turned those recollections into a book which should be required reading for anyone who thinks doctors don’t deserve ever penny they earn.

Most of Kay’s anecdotes are probably not the kind you would trot out at dinner parties. There’s the one where he was invited to a Halloween party after a gruelling shift and thought his blood-soaked gown might be a suitable costume. There is the story of a reveller whose penis was “degloved” during some late night drunken antics. Kay’s colourful Italian cuisine-inspired description of the mess will put you off drinking and also bolognese for life.

Of course there is the inevitable object-stuck-up-the-bum vignette, but there is much more here than merely dark, comic dispatches from A&E’s plasma-stained trenches. The book is also a timely account of the horrendous demands made on junior doctors - both physical and mental. At least once Kay fell asleep in his car in the car park after work and woke to find he was due on the wards again.

The arduous hours had a detrimental effect on his relationships and maybe also on his own emotional health. While he might have felt like “superman” when he saved lives that didn’t make up for the pain of seeing lives slip away. Never mind the cancelled holidays and the inability to buy a house and settle down because junior doctors are always being moved from hospital to hospital...

In the end it all proved too much for Kay, hence the career move into the much more stress-free comedy world. And who can blame him? Harsh critics might say he couldn’t hack it. After all, fully qualified doctors can earn a very good wage so what is there to complain about? But Kay’s soon-to-be-a-major-TV-series diaries argue that there has got to be a better system of running the NHS than this brutal, medieval way. It would be interesting to hear what Jeremy Hunt thinks of this book, but somehow I doubt if he will read it. 

Buy This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor here.

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