Book review: Bedside Stories – Confessions of a Junior Doctor
Book by Dr Michael Foxton (paperback, Atlantic Books, June 2012)
Dr Kaz Siddique gives his verdict on this vivid observation of life as a junior doctor, explaining what it’s really like to be on the frontline of medicine
Reprinted for 2012, Confessions of a Junior Doctor has gone on to establish itself as a classic, with a cult following amongst doctors and patient alike.
For two years, Dr Michael Foxton wrote about his experiences as a junior doctor in the NHS in the UK newspaper The Guardian, before they were all printed in one place. The column format makes it easy-to-read – being split into 800-word anecdotes. The narratives focus on the trials and tribulations of the poorly-prepared junior doctor, entering an overworked and underpaid NHS system. Dr Foxton’s purpose is to show the general public audience the true, and comic, nature of being a junior doctor in the NHS.
Whilst allowing for the differences of NCHDs, it is easy to make comedic parallels with your own hospital experiences as an intern – and the anecdotes inspire a regular sigh of relief: “At least that hasn’t happened to me.”
The narratives focus on the trials and tribulations of the poorly-prepared junior doctor, entering an overworked and underpaid NHS system
With the recurring theme that doctors are initially thrown into the deep end, but somehow, with a bit of “fluffing”, end up swimming like a fish in water, Dr Foxton tells a series of hilarious stories from his medical/surgical house officer, casualty and psychiatry rotations to his end-point as a consultant – and why and how he ended up there.
Life in psychiatry plays havoc with Dr Foxton’s predisposed ideas of the medical training programme. “The last thing I remember is delivering babies and drinking beer all day at med school. Suddenly, I’m a psychiatrist… wearing a tweed jacket.” As a junior doctor working in the Irish medical system, I most definitely found myself laughing at the sheer accuracy of Dr Foxton’s short stories. From his amusing account that: “I have already been a doctor for the purposes of: upgrading my aeroplane seat (unsuccessfully),” to the more dubious: “The crash bleep went off… no doctor in sight… no way I was wading in there on my own: I turned and saw the loo. Of course I hid,” his ability to say it how it is will have your eyebrows raised and pointing at that page yelling… I know exactly what you mean fellow doctor!
My overall response to the book? I found myself talking about it to my peers, giving examples and quotes. “Get some of those stick-on sideburns, a nice jumper, and become a GP,” was one of my favourites.
This book is sheer reality with a sprinkling of lots of humour
In conclusion, this book is sheer reality with a sprinkling of lots of humour. When I walk the endless wards, and ward rounds, I have found myself relating more and more to Dr Foxton’s confessions of a junior doctor, and I must confess… he is right.
Dr Kaz Siddique is a Geriatric Intern based at Waterford General Hospital.