Footnote Reviews

Adam Kay: This is Going to Hurt

The book cover for This is Going to Hurt, shows a doctor's jacket hung up with title over it.Review: Adam Kay, This is Going to Hurt

When the 2016 junior doctors’ dispute kicked off one former doctor-turned-scriptwriter armed himself with a pen.

Now Adam Kay’s debut book is set to be adapted into a major eight-part BBC comedy-drama exploring the secret diaries of a junior doctor. And, in the year that the NHS celebrates its 70th birthday, This is Going to Hurt presents a fitting and emotive tribute to those who work to keep the health service running.

We asked someone well versed with life on the front line for their review of this honest, moving and frankly hilarious account of six years as a junior doctor.

Review by Louise Bruce, former intensive care nurse.

Adam Kay’s This Is Going to Hurt is more than just a book, it’s an education. It’s a concise, chronological tale of the realities and challenges a newly qualified doctor faces, with the addition of what’s often not realised by the general public: the personal sacrifices that are made on a daily basis.

In Adam’s case, this resulted in the loss of a girlfriend, and very nearly a best friend, because he always “had to work” and either they didn’t understand or got fed up with so many canceled plans. This certainly lifts the lid on the “real” NHS and the impact it has on the lives of those working within it.

I feel this book should be compulsory reading, for everyone. I hope it helps people to understand.

Now, I won’t bash the NHS, it’s a wonderful institution, providing the best care it can to millions of people. Those that work within it, of which I was one for 12 years, are special. The sense of purpose; the ability to actually make a difference; the lifelong friends you make and are forever bonded to because of the experiences you share; and, the deep-rooted delightfully dark sense of humour you develop are all wonderful - but what about the flip side, the darker side? The memories that keep you awake at night?

I feel this book should be compulsory reading, for everyone. I myself have passed my copy round to my nearest and dearest. I hope it helps them to understand. Nurses don’t have the same horrendous schedule of our more senior medical colleagues but we see and share many of the same horrors. The good usually outweighs the bad and that’s enough to keep us coming back for more. For me, however, like Adam, I called time early. I walked away and reading this made me feel better. It validated something I didn’t realise I needed: that there was nothing to be ashamed of for walking away. I’d done enough, I’d seen enough.

I hope one of the lasting impacts this book can have is this: the next time you are at a clinic, GP or in a hospital have a little patience. You are in safe hands, the staff are doing their best to treat as many people as possible quickly but effectively, and those working so hard to help you and make you better need to eat, drink and pee too. Access to healthcare is one of our country’s greatest assets but it’s not perfect. More staff, more money, and more resources would without a doubt help, but without the personal sacrifices of those trying to keep it afloat, we’d all be a lot worse off.


Louise Bruce worked in the NHS for over 10 years, most recently as an intensive care nurse.

Adam Kay's This is Going to Hurt is available as an audio book from Audible.

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