February 2021
Iqra Ali (Guest Contributor)

Following our previous post 'Medical Book and Podcast Recommendations', we have decided to provide you with a series of posts focusing on a few of these recommendations, giving our opinions and suggestions of the type of person the book/podcast would be suitable for.

Your Life in My Hands by Dr Rachel Clarke

Book cover of 'Your Life in My Hands' by Dr Rachel Clarke

First Impressions?

The cover instantly caught my eye when I was browsing through the bookshelves at the bookshop. Rachel Clarke was someone I had heard of before and what inspired me about her is that she did medicine as a graduate… something I am hoping to do.

The blurb makes it clear that this book discusses the harsh realities of medicine, and that it is certainly not a glamorous profession. It gives a great introduction to the brutally honest perspective of what a career as a doctor in the NHS, and in particular a junior doctor, is like.

The Guardian and The Times powerfully sum up the book with one word each, which made me grab the book and take it home with me.

My Top Three Quotes?

This book made me feel like I was there with Dr. Clarke alongside her during her hospital shifts, as well as her highs and her lows of her career. The vividness of the many stories she described was captivating. The quotes I loved the most were the following:

“’Good God!’ we teased him. ‘What are you doing here? It’s Saturday. Surely you should have parked your Porsche near the eighteenth hole by now.’”- this was mentioned when Jeremy Hunt, former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, accused that the NHS was failing because consultants did not work at the weekends… but her consultant was, in fact, working alongside her every weekend. This joke perfectly sums up the assumptions that doctors are cash-rich with a stress -free life. I can confirm after reading this book and being on wards during work experience, this assumption is far from reality.

“‘I have been in this hospital for six months and I know how hard you all work. I want to be here with you’”- Dr. Clarke describes a patient who refused to stay in the ward when the doctors were protesting and so, he came out, covered in many blankets, to support all of the junior doctors. This made me realise that the efforts of doctors do not go unnoticed. They may be tired, overworked and understaffed, but the determination that the staff in the NHS show, is appreciated by many patients despite the government’s lack of appreciation.

“In some specialities, such as paediatrics, the shortage of trainees is now so critical that one in five training posts is unfilled nationally”- this quote probably hit me more than it would hit other readers for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it not a myth that the NHS is understaffed, and the pandemic has most definitely emphasised this. Although the statistics may differ since the book was written, it shows that vacancies in the NHS area harsh reality. And secondly, paediatrics is an area of medicine that is of particular interest to me and therefore this inspires me to follow this career path and help ameliorate this problem someday in the future.

One Sentence to Summarise the Book?

A brilliant and brutally honest account of what being a doctor is like, compromising of truthful stories rather than those in the media that are often twisted to fit their agenda.

Who Should Read This Book?

Aspiring medics should read this book to understand what being a doctor for the NHS is all about. Dr. Clarke is a palliative care specialist, so anyone interested in this field will find her accounts of being on the palliative care ward insightful.  The highs and lows of a medical career are perfectly summarised by Dr. Clarke, and she definitely destroys a lot of common stereotypes people have about doctors.  Additionally, this book could be mentioned in a personal statement and interviews as it demonstrates your drive and commitment to study medicine. By giving you a realistic insight into the life and hence the skills and attributes a good doctor requires, it helps you to make a good judgment of areas where you can improve on, and also help you identify the skills you can already demonstrate. This is what interviewers are looking for and want you to be able to provide examples and reflect on this when being interviewed.

I would also recommend this book to people interested in public health, as the NHS is a public sector organisation. A lot of politics is discussed which provides good background information about the kinds of problems the NHS has gone through.

Last Thoughts?

Overall, this book exceeded my expectations and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Dr. Clarke has published a new book called Breathtaking: Inside the NHS in a time of Pandemic which I can’t wait to get my hands on as, after this superb read, I am sure will not disappoint!

Author: Iqra Ali

Editor: Allegra wisking

BACK TO BLOG