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Engaging enough, but not ground-breaking
on 16 August 2008
Max Pemberton has written an engaging account of his first year as a junior doctor, which I enjoyed reading, but there's something all too familiar about the trials and tribulations he runs through here. Any casual viewer of medical dramas such as "Casualty", "Holby City" , "Cardiac Arrest", "Bodies", "E.R." (etc, etc, etc) will be aware that junior doctors are overworked, underpaid, put under pressure by superiors, and often feel that they are out of their depth. Similarly, the idea that hospitals are being overrun with bureaucracy, paperwork, targets, league tables (etc, etc, etc) is nothing new.
Other familiar medical territory that has the crash team called, the paddles readied and the electric charge applied here includes Max losing heart and beginning to consider other career choices (a dilemma resolved in predictable fashion); family members who complain the young doctor has lost weight and needs to be fed up, etc; nurses being under-appreciated; junior doctors making mistakes (though none that are actually that bad); a senior doctor who is a ladies man and works his way through the younger, impressionable female doctors; X-rays, blood tests, brain scans etc being very difficult to obtain unless special favours can magically be called in by nurses and administration staff who manage to fix things for our hero and earn his eternal gratitude; and an impassioned defence of the NHS. It is all very readable, and I have no doubt that it is all very accurate, but this book is not ground-breaking, and does not take any risks in its depiction of a junior doctor's first year.
Max is a very likeable narrator, and his writing style is gently amusing, if not as hilarious as some of the cover blurb promises the reader. I am greatly reassured that there are doctors out there with his professional, caring and conscientious attitude. However, he's altogether just too nice, and the path of a junior doctor already so well-trodden in books, TV, cinema, newspapers and so on and so forth, for this gentle, familiar account to have any real bite, or lasting impact on the reader.