Book Review: ‘This is Going to Hurt’ by Adam Kay

“97-hour weeks.

Life and death decisions.

A constant tsunami of bodily fluids. 

And the hospital parking meter earns more than you.”

So begins ex-junior doctor Adam Kay’s book, This is Going to Hurt, about his experiences during his time in the National Health Service (NHS) in the U.K. The book is a compilation of his diary entries, scrawled as therapy after endless days, sleepless nights and missed weekends. Each entry details “interesting” events of each shift during his career in obstetrics and gynaecology. For instance, entries talk about:

  • Details about procedures, maternal and fetal anatomy you can mention if you ever need a quick way out of family gatherings
  • Plumbing the fathomless depths of human ridiculousness, both of colleagues and patients
  • His tragicomic tales of sacrifices made for the job, including relationships, stable housing and healthy blood pressure

All of these stories are infused with scalpel-sharp wit and a healthy dose of gallows humour.  

Interspersed with the daily chaos of working the frontlines are Kay’s reflections on the toxic work culture, garroted by its silence on the sky-high rates of suicide and mental health issues. He also ruminates on interacting with patients – both in the glow of having wrested a positive outcome for them, and in the aftermath of tragedy.

Kay also opens up about the events that precipitated his departure from the profession, and outlines his reasons for publishing this, in view of the abysmal conditions that junior doctors in the NHS continue to face.  

This is Going to Hurt is at its heart a political book. It is an articulation of the struggles of junior doctors, an excoriation of the British government’s slander of them, as well as, a spotlight on the oft-gilded, dark daily realities of being a doctor. Most critically, it is a clarion call to the public – to hear what their junior doctors go through and fight for them as they do for their patients.

This is Going to Hurt lives up to its name in its side-splitting hilarity and in its unflinching account of the sacrifices doctors make.