Student blog: Adam Kay

Maja McGill is a final year german and politics student and We Are Sheffield Students blogger at the University of Sheffield. This is her final blog piece for Off the Shelf 2017.

Adam Kay's talk about his book This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor was sadly the final chapter in my Off the Shelf festival experience but it proved to be my favourite. The venue was packed and buzzing with excitement for what would prove to be an entertaining evening. Once on stage, Adam very quickly connected with the audience and together we began the journey through his six years as a junior doctor specialising in obstetrics and gynaecology.

A mixture of excerpts and chat, Adam showed us the absurdity of life working in a hospital. From the banality of bureaucracy in the NHS to being constantly sprayed with bodily fluids! From the ridiculous names given to children to the bizarre complaints of patients. One came in at midnight to grumble about dozens of painless spots on her tongue, otherwise known as taste buds...

No joke fell flat, a credit to Adam's humour, but the comedy didn't overshadow touching moments, such as poignant conversations with a terminally ill patient. He also used it to cleverly highlight the horror of night shifts that made "Dante look like Disney", comparing it to single-handedly sailing a ship that's "enormous, and on fire, and that no -ne has really taught you how to sail". As well as regaling the story of the time he was woken by a phone call from his supervisor asking why he was late, only for Adam to realise he was actually in the hospital car park. He'd fallen asleep in his car after his shift the evening before.

Punctuated with political pieces, most of which were in response to the junior doctors debate a couple of years ago, his passion was strong but measured. He took aim at politicians, pointing out the irrationally in the logic that someone who decides to sign their life away to being a doctor is just 'in it for the money'. It takes seven years to become a consultant and up until that point you change hospital once or twice a year. Constantly moving home, working unpaid overtime and missing Christmases and birthdays: Not exactly the ingredients for a stable life or lasting relationships, romantic or otherwise. Either you stop accepting the invitations or they stop asking, and slowly but surely friends drift out of your life. For Adam, being a doctor is a lifestyle choice people make because they genuinely want to help people and make a change. Therefore he made a heartfelt plea that we begin confronting those who perpetuate the lie that all doctors are greedy and make the decision to go into the profession based on money alone.

I won't spoil the ending, it really is powerful stuff, but when he read this part aloud there was a sudden silence while all of us processed the shocking details and some began to cry. I certainly began to well up when he revealed that he'd never even told his parents or partner that this was the real reason he left medicine. They only found out after reading his book, demonstrating just how much raw emotion is laid bare in these diaries.

Hilarious, heartbreaking and thought-provoking, Adam Kay's book is clearly a must-read.

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