A doctor recommended this book to me. It was written by a medical resident in the 80s, whose trials and experiences were very entertaining to read (as a side note: medicine in the 80s was ca-razy)! It is always valuable in my opinion to read people’s experiences from all points in time; it gives you a more “rounded” view of the industry you’re going into. For instance, the idea that nurses are sluts may sound appalling to you now but when you hear about the repertoire that actually existed in the past between doctors and nurses, you may understand why that stigma exists. Stereotypes are based on truth, people!
I enjoyed the book because Shem is brutally honest (and you don’t necessarily like him for it). He admits when he was tired and was called in to care for an ER patient at 3AM, he wished they would die on him so he could go back to bed. This of course is a split moment of thought (and not a genuine desire) and I know for a fact that it happens, truly, to many medical professionals when they are faced with problems in the middle of extreme fatigue. But there are rarely instances when a doctor kills someone just to get some sleep (it’s probably more likely that a doctor kills someone DUE to lack of sleep)! In truth, the worst he did was “push” the patient (which means he made sure the patient was stabilized, then transferred to another floor).
Shem and his colleagues keep you entertained with patient stories but also with their medical lingo. There is a dictionary in the back of the book that explains regular medical terms plus Shem’s team’s personal lingo. For instance, old, sick people in the hospital who have no quality of life are called “gomers.” Before you get up in arms and think this kind of thing would never happen today, you should know that I’ve met doctors in today’s world who call similar patients “trolls.” Old women who come to the hospital repeatedly for the same imaginary ailment are called LOLs in NAD: little old ladies in no apparent distress. That is awesome to me because I have seen first hand how the craziness of the medical industry can make anyone insane; you need a little comic relief.
By the end of the book, you see that Shem is unraveling emotionally and psychologically due to the stress of his job (one of his colleagues even commits suicide). Shem, who in the beginning of his residency was appalled by the nick-names given to patients (such as “gomer”), starts to understand that the reason such ludacrisy exists is because if it didn’t, you would go mad. Mad with painful exhaustion. Mad with disappointment and depression when you lose patients. Mad with fear for making the wrong decision. Mad with despair when your family doesn’t support or understand the pressures you face daily.
It’s truly eye opening to so many aspects of the medical field: the administration problems, the unreasonable environment doctors have to work in, the ridiculous patients who seek care. What’s more interesting is that I see a lot of the same problems Shem described in his book, which was written in the 80s, in the current hospital setting. What’s wrong with that statement?