Book Review : THIS IS GOING TO HURT by Adam Kay

If you don’t burst out laughing – and break into tears – at least once while reading this book… check your pulse. You might be dead!

A stand up comedian, who was once a doctor (even a trained specialist) in Britain’s NHS, wrote this delightfully funny, insightful and mission-oriented book.

Yes, This Is Going To Hurt!

Any doctor will find oh-so-many instances in it that resonate deeply with their own training. And every patient will find comfort in knowing that they are not alone in their travails experienced in a hospital.

Both will feel a sense of wonder and relief – that despite it all, they seem to have got away without worse disasters and accidents!

The narrative takes you through a residency training program at a group of typical NHS Trust hospitals in Obstetrics and Gynaecology (“or ‘brats and twats’ as it was charmingly known at my medical school”).

Non-medical readers will enjoy the detailed descriptions of how an on-call shift goes. The kind of bizarre situations and people a doctor meets. The frail humanity on display in any emergency situation. And loads of humorous or horrifying anecdotes that are grist to a doctor’s mill.

But every kind of reader will delight in the author’s humorous storytelling style in ‘This Is Going To Hurt’, with countless examples of sheer ridiculous behavior and near-slapstick merriment to keep one engaged and entertained right through the book.

The language is fun and crisp. Dr.Kay describes a busy day in the out-patient unit thusly:

“I was like a snowplough with a stethoscope – booting out anyone who got to the third syllable of ‘malingerer’ without passing out or coughing up blood.”


“Labour ward is literally four things: caesareans, forceps, ventouse and sewing up the mess you’ve made.”

And his blunt descriptions of specialties might make those hapless souls who chose it cringe – but everyone else giggle with mirth.

For instance,

“Orthopaedics is basically reserved for the med school’s rugby team – it’s barely more than sawing and nailing – and I suspect they don’t ‘sign up’ for it so much as dip their hand in ink and provide a palm print.”

That he’s in favor of becoming a doctor however, and places ObsGyn above any other branch of medicine, is clear from how he details a visit to a career counselling ‘job fair’ session after high school.

“The careers on the other tables had their obvious draws – the principal one being a shit-ton of cash every month – but there’s no feeling like knowing you’ve saved a life. Not even that, half the time; just knowing you’ve made a difference is enough. You go home – however tired, late and blood-splattered – with a spring in your step that’s hard to describe, feeling like you have a useful part to play in the world.”

That’s a sentiment every doctor and healthcare worker can identify with.

Slipped silently into the backdrop of a book that seems like just a disjointed series of incidents, is a deeper, awareness-building narrative of the secret lives of junior doctors and trainees.

A backdrop that will bring you fresh insights into what’s wrong about our current training system for medical professionals – and what must be done to fix it.

And yet, all of that is subliminal and subtle. What will grip your attention and hold it are the insanely funny tales and twists that Adam Kay shares so brilliantly in a book that ranks among the best I’ve read all year – and among the most enjoyable reads ever.

A final note to end this book review…

Footnotes are seldom a feature any book review will focus on. Except with Adam Kay’s ‘This Is Going To Hurt‘ – where these appendices are laugh-out-loud hilarious in themselves.

Make sure you don’t miss them!