A review by Emma Streeton
This Is Going To Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor is a collection of diary entries written by Kay during his medical training from 2004 to 2010 within the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). During this time Kay specialized in obstetrics and gynecology. His contact with patients in these departments form the basis of most of his secret diary anecdotes. He says he was compelled to write this book in support of the junior doctors who went on strike in 2016 over working conditions and pay. In my opinion it is a successful rebuke to the then UK health secretary who made comments referring to junior doctors being greedy.
Secret Diaries is definitely one of those ‘un-put-downables’ but I am unconvinced that this is because it is a compelling read. For me there was a desire to get to the end to find out why Dr Kay finally decides to walk away from the profession. It is a very easy read because of its diary format and in the interests of full disclosure I did laugh out loud a few times. It was impossible not to with snippets like this:
“Her extremely posh eight year-old asks her a question about the economy (!), and before she answers it, she asks her extremely posh five year-old “Do you know what the economy is, darling?”
“Yes mummy, it’s the part of the plane that’s terrible”.
The Realities Revealed
Despite its occasional laugh the book was repetitive and, for me, the faintly amusing anecdotes paled after a relatively short number of pages. However, the book is not without merit. It really does open your eyes about how the NHS is held together by the good hearts, perseverance and commitment of the people who work there.
“a great doctor must have a huge heart and a distended aorta through which pumps a vast lake of compassion and human kindness.”
“So I told them the truth: 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.”
Kay’s Main Message
The conditions faced by a junior doctor are appalling and frightening. It shows the dedication required to make the mark and how easily fatal mistakes can be made by an overworked and overtired doctor. As Kay’s experience highlights, even those that do make the mark are constantly teetering on the verge of burn out. His diary entries highlight how the NHS is on its knees, as are those that work in the system. It emphasizes that it is an institution worth saving but, to do so, a lot of changes are needed. If anything this book offers insight and awareness to the everyday person like myself. That can never be a bad thing. I hope the book draws attention to that aspect of Kay’s writing.
My husband read This Is Going To Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor before me. He enjoyed many laugh out loud moments and was compelled to read many bits aloud to me. Then he insisted I read it. I finished within a day. It sure sparked a few conversations between myself and my other half. He loved it and I was not a fan. The bits he found most amusing I found slightly crass and quite shocking. In a nutshell, our opinions were very much divided. Which camp will you be in?
Other books like this:
- Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay.
- Trust Me, I’m A (Junior) Doctor by Max Pemberton.
- Going Under by Sonia Henry.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Imprint: Picador (Pan Macmillan)
Format: paperback, 256 pages
Category: nonfiction, humor