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Book Review: This is going to hurt by Adam Kay

I have quite a few books I must write reviews for, but I thought I’d start with my most recent read. 

This is going to hurt by Adam Kay

Genre: Non Fiction/Autobiography/Memoir

BUG Rating: 4.5/5

Overall: This book was by far the best memoir I have read in a really long time. I absolutely loved how easily Kay managed to make me laugh, with such ease, throughout the majority of the book. There were some purposely sadder diary entries, in which Kay’s writing was perfect. Kay managed to nail just the right amount of sadness to give the book a well rounded, heartfelt, personal opinion of his time as a doctor.

 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.

Plot:

Welcome to ninety-seven-hour weeks. Welcome to life-and-death decisions. Welcome to a constant tsunami of bodily fluids. Welcome to earning less than the hospital parking meter. Wave goodbye to your friends and relationships . .

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 by turns, this is everything you wanted to know – and more than a few things you didn’t – about life on and off the hospital ward. And yes, it may leave a scar.


Where to start with this one … it is an amazing, incredibly funny and thought provoking memoir byAdam Kay, Obstetrics and Gynecology doctor. Kay decided to get out his old diaries and write this memoir after the 2016 junior doctors’ strike over the proposed introduction of a seven-day NHS service. Kay felt that the government and the press were unfairly criticizing junior doctors – which you will understand from this book, they definitely were!

Adam’s writing style is truly unique, I have never found myself laugh out loud, whilst on the bus to work, at 6am before … the strange looks I got from most people on the bus, most of who were barely functioning at such an early hour. Meanwhile, I was enjoying Adam’s wit and detailed descriptions of some of the unfortunate but ‘funny’ (not so much for the patients!) situations he found himself in…

A few that really stuck in my mind:

  • The birthday ‘surprise’ a man did for his girlfriend… Laying naked on the kitchen table, covered in chocolate and just as she entered, lit a candle in his …  resulting in hot wax dripping down into his bladder and taking Kay and the surgical team a significant amount of time to ‘unpick’ in surgery.
  • The time someone shoved Christmas lights up her lady parts and turned them on … ending up with vaginal burns.
  • During labour, husband goes for coffee, comes back to find Kay caught ‘doggy style’ with his arm shoulder deep in the woman’s… you can imagine, the coffee found the floor pretty quickly and the horrified husband’s face was priceless.
  •  And another: “I tell her she can have sex again as soon a she feels ready, but to use alternative contraception until her next period. I nod at her husband and say, ‘That means he has to wear a condom.’ I can’t quite work out why their faces are a picture of horror […] I look at them both again, and realise the man is actually her father.”

The book is just full of these laugh out loud moments.

However, despite how incredibly funny this book is, it also really highlights the problems the NHS face.From the jaw-dropping, shambolic pay of junior doctors (there was a reference to Kay at one point earning less than a MacDonald’s supervisor.. yet these individuals are trusted with our lives? To provide life saving care when we are at our most vulnerable moments). There is also the question of the amount of hours these people are expected to work… I do not know how these people actually end up functioning enough to make a cup of coffee let alone perform surgery.

It’s just crazy … 

This also brought other things home; Kay was running a clinic, overrunning by hours, as a patient, we just think about ourselves sat waiting in the waiting room (totally guilty myself, I am a very unpatient patient), but what we also fail to think about, is that these doctors still have to see EVERYBODY there, and will stay there until they finished, no matter what time their shift supposedly ended. 

I can’t count the amount of times in the book that Kay missed date night, family occasions, social events etc, all in order to provide medical care.

This eventually took its toll on his relationship with his partner, describing the only positive thing– he could move into his new pad closer to the hospital – not that he got to spend any time there! Kay is completely candid in his account of what it’s really like being a doctor in the NHS, and the huge amount of responsibility put on to such a young, and inexperienced individual.

The story ultimately took a dark turn (no real spoilers here due to the heavy publicity this book received), when following complications during labour, Kay’s young patient, ended up losing a huge amount of blood, a hysterectomy and a dead baby.

It was an incredibly sad story, which I will leave for you to read the details yourself. But it changed Kay. Kay felt a huge amount of guilt and trauma (and was not offered counselling or time off to recover). This became the defining moment he decided enough was enough and hung up his stethoscope, ending his career as a doctor. 

This book is filled with many, many laughs, but also highlights the pressures put on a young person, who has an interest in medicine, to decide their fate early in their teenage years. (“Every doctor makes their career choice aged sixteen, two years before they’re legally allowed to text a photo of their own genitals”) but also shows the devastating reality of the NHS. The long hours, extremely poor pay and staff shortages – and the toll this takes on doctors and their personal lives (non existent). Kay tells his story with such openness, with the real ability to get his humour across on the pages. This book is a must read for anyone who is curious to know what it’s really like to be a doctor. Kay is just another one of the many unsung heroes we have in this world.

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