“I think of how a year ago I could only have imagined the things I’d see, the situations I’d find myself in, and the incredible array of people I’d met. Would I go through it again? Not on your life.”
Max Pemberton is a doctor, journalist and writer. He is a columnist for The Daily Telegraph, writing weekly on news events concerning culture, social and ethical issues, the politics of health care and the NHS.
I first heard about Max Pemberton when he came to our school to give a talk on his career; working in the NHS, transitioning to being a newspaper columnist and his books: Trust Me, I’m A (Junior) Doctor and Where Does It Hurt?
His award-winning weekly columns in the newspaper are the basis for his first book: it’s a mixture of fiction and truth which tells behind-the-scenes account of his first year on the wards in the NHS as a doctor, along with a few others that made up the group. It’s written in the style of a diary which makes which allows the reader to relate with him on personal level.
What I enjoyed the most about it was its bittersweet undertone and gut-wrenching honesty complimented by humour. The medical career is not sugar-coated with any of those overrated phrases such as “what a rewarding career it is”, “saving lives” or “the grateful look on the patient’s face made it all worthwhile” etc. On the contrary, the junior doctors couldn’t wait to get away from the place but the fear of one device haunted them incessantly: their pager. Not only did the gang of medics have to endure rude and unappreciative patients, but cruel and sadistic senior doctors as well.
Containing numerous stories of individual patients (eg. the man with a hairbrush up his backside), it illustrates how death is perceived as a bother for the doctor attending to it (“As I stare at Mr Clarke, all I can think is why does he have to be dying during my shift? Couldn’t he have waited?”) and everyone going through a period of doubt, wondering if they made the correct decision entering this profession, considering whether the never-ending hours were worth it in the end.
It’s an eye-opener to the world of medicine for people, like me, who’d been previously sheltered from the realities and was only familiar with the illusions fed to me by naive, wishful parents. I’d recommend the book to anyone thinking about this career.