This is going to hurt
- Adam Kay
With its succinct diary-style format, ‘This Is Going to Hurt’ is a recommendation for readers and non-readers alike. Whether you enjoy a good story and haven’t got enough time on your hands for a novel (perks of being an Imperial student!) or aren’t into books but want to take a productive break from the tedium of your MS Teams meetings, Imperial alumnus Adam Kay’s accessible writing caters to everyone’s literary needs. The fragmented nature of the diary liberates readers from commitment, and as a bonus, a TV adaptation starring Ben Wishaw has just aired its first episode on BBC One this week (on Tuesday 8th February), perfect for those of us who can’t quite find the time or focus to read an entire book.
Containing a carefully curated plethora of anecdotes plucked straight from the diary of a junior doctor, ‘This is Going to Hurt’ is a poignant and introspective insight into the daily life of an NHS medic. Adam Kay details his journey post-med school, navigating the ins and outs of numerous hospitals while climbing the ranks from ‘House Officer’ to ‘Senior Registrar’. His tales of medical maladies range from hilarious to heartbreaking, and each is told with a sense of pride and just a little sarcasm.
As it describes the medical world and everyday experiences of a doctor, this may seem like a heavy read, but each journal entry details Kay’s cases with welcome simplicity and a hint of humorous absurdity. Although he is no longer a practicing doctor, his passion for the career and belief in its nobility is inspirational even for those of us who would never even consider pursuing medicine. He relates to the reader an occasion on which he was asked to return to his old school for a careers event. To the few students who showed interest in medicine, he decided to reveal the grittier aspects of the profession, rather than simply advertising the glamorous, idealistic version.
If stories from the Covid pandemic haven’t yet managed to convince you that the life of an NHS employee is tough and gruelling, Kay’s recounts of working 100+ hour weeks and being underpaid in hospitals that are severely understaffed definitely will. His slightly graphic albeit technical descriptions of pregnancy, labour, and delivery could also put any sane woman off having a child of her own. Despite all that, he encourages us that he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
As incredible and funny as Kay’s stories are, they also bestow the reader with a greater empathy for doctors and other health professionals, not just in the UK’s NHS but all over the world. It provides ample justification for the sometimes-restrained and unsympathetic nature of medics, and garners appreciation for those that do show their patience and compassion to patients. Put in their position, how many of us would have the strength of character to return to such a taxing occupation, and how soon would we reach our own personal breaking point?
Adam Kay’s brilliant narration paired with the gravity of his subject matter will ensure you stay hooked with every turn of a page. If you only read one book this week or month or even this year, make it this one. I promise you won’t regret it.