15 Feb ‘This is Going to Hurt’
I hate flying. The cramped economy seating, the strong musty smell of pre-packaged plane food and the incessant crying from babies all throughout the plane (I swear it’s like they take turns) – I hate it all. Stuck on one of these less than pleasant long-distance plane rides, with nothing to do, I desperately needed a distraction. So I decided to pick up a book that’s been all the buzz lately – Adam Kay’s ‘This is Going to Hurt’. A compilation of Kay’s diary entries from his time as a doctor-in-training under the National Health Service (NHS), ‘This is Going to Hurt’ takes readers on what I can only describe as a tumultuous rollercoaster of ups, downs and everything in between.
Kay gives us an honest look into what it’s really like being a doctor in hospital. Whether it be the grueling hours, the social detriments or the lack of pay, he’s got you covered. Inspired by the political issues surrounding the treatment of junior doctors in the United Kingdom*, the author, an ex-obstetrics and gynecology trainee, set out to tell his side of the story – one that many doctors can undoubtedly relate to.
It’s a candid look into the pressures that junior doctors truly face and the sacrifices they have to make to stay in this profession. The personal anecdotes range from intern year to registrar year as Kay gives us an insight into each stage of his rise in the hospital ranks, his training in obstetrics and gynecology, as well as why he left it all.
However, by no means is this a sombre book. Kay’s comic retelling of hospital-life is done so intelligently that you can’t help but laugh about his (and possibly your own) pain. His engrossing tone is a mix of cynicism, sarcasm and straightforwardness that depicts the stark realities of practising medicine whilst amusing the reader at the same time. And as you could probably guess, Kay’s training in gynecology gives way to an endless number of sexually deviant jokes and innuendos.
If I haven’t convinced you already, I’ll let the book do the talking. When a female patient doesn’t understand why St John’s Wort is causing her to bleed PV, especially since it’s “just herbal”, Kay details his colleague’s exasperated reply.
“Apricot Stones contain cyanide,…the death cap mushroom has a fifty per cent fatality rate. Natural does not equal safe. There’s a plant in my garden where if you simply sat under it for ten minutes then you’d be dead.” Job done: [the patient] bins the tablets.
I ask [my colleague] about that plant over a colonoscopy later.
It’s no surprise that ‘This is Going to Hurt’ has been awarded various accolades since its release.
There’s a lot to learn as well. In fact, many of you will draw lessons from the book that will be useful in your own lives and future careers. And you’ll even be surprised by just how much you understand the medical terminology. Pretty sure my eyes bugged out a little when I read the words “Horner’s syndrome” and actually knew what that meant. And even if there’s a lot of terminology you don’t know, fear not for he explains them beautifully in his footnotes.
(E.g. Footnote: #NOF means fractured neck of femur. If you thought # was a hashtag, you’re banned from reading the rest of the book. His words, not mine, I’m afraid)
So what makes it different to every other novel by a medic? Kay holds nothing back. There’s no sugarcoating or brushing over the difficult bits. And he delivers his message expertly – with humour and wit that you’ll absolutely love. ‘This is Going to Hurt’ had me quite literally laughing out loud, grimacing in disgust (don’t let anyone tell you about how beautiful childbirth is) and at times close to tears.
This is a book you can read, reread and then reread again and still appreciate it as much as you did the first time. It’s a tribute to reflective practice (Kwong and Linda would be proud) that handles what can often be dry and serious topics in an entertaining manner. And don’t just take my word for it. It was only a few weeks ago that a certain Griffith University lecturer paused lecture capture to rave about this very book. So now go. Go and read this book. Because trust me, you’ll want to.
*In 2015, after a UK politician accused junior doctors of being greedy over contract disputes, Kay was inspired to show the public what being a doctor truly entails.
Interested in writing for the GUMS blog? Email Yasha (email@example.com)