Book Review: Trust Me, I’m a (Junior) Doctor

Trust Me, I’m a (Junior) Doctor 

by Max Pemberton. Published by Hodder & Stoughton

MAX Pemberton must have known he was taking a risk when, straight out of medical school and starting his first job, he agreed to chronicle his experiences for the Daily Telegraph. But it was a gamble that has certainly paid off with a selection of writings based on his popular ‘Finger on the Pulse’ column having now been published in paperback. Trust Me, I’m a (Junior) Doctor chronicles the twelve-month white-knuckle ride, of which any FY1 will be only too well aware, commencing with that frightening first week in August.

It’s surely one way to manage the stresses and strains, the slings and arrows, of FY1 fortune. Like when you sleep in for a Monday morning ward round after working solidly through the weekend. Worse than being told off, Max discovered that his consultant and his registrar only got on with it themselves, apparently not even noticing his presence after arriving more than half an hour late.

Still, it’s good to know where you stand. On the first proper shift of Week One, after days of the standard orientation and induction talks, working relationships were helpfully clarified with the words: “I’m not your friend, I’m your registrar. If you don’t bother me, I won’t bother you.” By the end of the month, Max was clear on the concept: “This is the golden rule of medicine: if someone is senior to you, they are right. Always.”

Then there are the timehonoured sporting traditions of nursing teams. Summoned to a suspected kidney failure, his pager goes off again just as he appears on the relevant ward. It’s about another patient at the other end of the hospital, this time with high potassium. And so the tag continues, with neither patient appearing to get any worse, until finally the nurses take pity. The lesson: some emergencies are more of an emergency than others. Knowing which is which, that’s the trick.

If your first ethical duty to patients is that they should be able to trust you as a (junior) doctor, a prerequisite of this is that you manage to survive the rollercoaster of FY1. My hunch is that putting it down in words was a big part of getting Max Pemberton through a scary twelve months – and reading this book in your few spare moments may help do the same.

By Dr Al Dowie, MDDUS Senior University Teacher in Medical Ethics, Law and Risk

Trust Me, I’m a (Junior) Doctor by Max Pemberton is published by Hodder & Stoughton (£12.99).