British Science Week: Book Review

Written by Charlotte

To end our British Science Week celebrations, we have a book review from Charlotte which discusses the classic 'This Is Gonna Hurt' by Adam Kay...

I first read this book a few years ago and was struck by the funny and heart-breaking stories that Kay retells in his diary. Reading it again this week, the ideas that I formed and felt years ago still stay with me (seeming even more poignant in today’s world, where healthcare staff are on the frontline against both the virus and the complications that come with it).

The tone in which Kay tells these entries highlighted the importance of staying happy and finding happy elements of the day when you work as a doctor- the days that he experiences are long and full of difficult situations, if he didn’t stay light and try to see the good then his life would be incredibly difficult.

It also demonstrated the reality of working on the NHS from someone who has experienced it first-hand. The long working hours and bureaucracy that follows Kay throughout the novel mirror some of the events that I witnessed during my volunteering experience. This indicates how it is not just the clinical issues that you have to face but also the forms and systems that are put in place, which can be tricky to work. When the nurse says “you don’t get a break”, Kay says “depressing but true” which manifested how long the working day was and reinforced the idea that medicine is not just a nine-to-five job, it involves many late and early shifts too.

However this book has also illustrated how “the little things make a difference”. In such a demanding and, at times, painful environment, it is imperative that you possess the ability to laugh and keep happy when you can. The small acts of kindness remind Kay of why he is in the job and tell of how, even when the work is difficult, there are still moments of laughter too.

When Kay reveals his decision to leave his profession at the end of the novel, it shows how important it is to be entirely sure that a career in medicine is the right direction. But it also emphasised how difficult some of the circumstances are and the expectation that you have to be resilient and brush off some harrowing experiences. When Kay describes how this death was different because he was “the most senior person on the ward when something terrible happened”, I thought about how hard that must have been and how many people rely on you when you work as a doctor, with the expectation that you know and can do anything (when the reality is quite different).

The difficulty over dealing with grief is also referred to at the end of the book, and this showed how many people brush these experiences under the carpet and carry on working- which must be incredibly tough, as Kay keeps remembering the ‘bad times’ when he is treating other patients.

Overall I found that reading this book really enhanced my knowledge of the NHS and the healthcare system. Often, we just see news reports with lots of different healthcare staff but this gave a much more personal view of the struggles that they face and how they overcome them.

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