Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Trust me I'm a (junior) doctor (Pemberton)

One of my very good friends is in her first year post-medical school working as a junior doctor and I have always been fascinated by her study and hospital placements. When we met up last weekend I spent a lot of time trying to find out what her new job involves. I wish I had read Trust me I'm a (junior) doctor beforehand as it would have saved me asking a lot of silly questions.

Endorsed on the back of the book by Boris Johnson, it is not a terribly literary read, but it is laugh-out-loud funny, sad in places and hugely interesting. Pemberton wrote a column for the Daily Telegraph during his first year as a junior doctor and this book resulted. There is no plot as such and the characters are not particularly well developed, but the "what will happen next to Pemberton" makes it a real page-turner.

The most interesting element for me was the descriptions of his day to day work which enabled me to understand what my friend gets up to - fitting catheters, inserting canulas, finding mysteriously lost X-rays, signing patients in and out, and sadly signing death certificates. He describes the "Oh s***" feeling of being summoned to the patient's bed because he is the doctor, and the dreadful feeling of missing an important and obvious diagnosis that nearly leads to a patient's death. At the same time we see how hard the life of a Junior Doctor is (although I believe this was written before the cut-down in working hours); Pemberton barely gets any time to eat, let alone buy food or do his washing, and his time off essentially consists of sleeping. There is also a fair amount of debate; Pemberton is a staunch defender of the NHS and tries to argue against the downgrading of patient care that results from penny pinching (for example the problems caused by contracting out of the various services which make them difficult to access).

I shall definitely be borrowing the second volume of his diaries, Where does it hurt?, sooner rather than later.

If you're interested in this sort of thing, then I would also recommend Confessions of a Baby Barista which uses the same premise with regard to the work of a barrister in his first pupillage. Also hilarious it gave me a really good understanding of what my barrister friends get up to.

I wonder if there is room in the market for the memoir of a librarian?!


  1. I worked in a hospital for years and saw first hand the life of a junior doctor (we call them interns and residents). This reminds me of 'House of God' the 'classic novel of life and death in an American hospital'...a very funny, irreverent book.

  2. That sounds like an interesting book too JoAnn - I'd be interesting to know how American hospitals compare.

  3. Thanks Verity - sounds like a great title (and its followup) to add to my "medical lit pile" - I had not heard of it or its author before. And I have read a couple Librarians memoirs - they're great - go for it I say :-)


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