In medical school, Matt McCarthy dreamed of being a different kind of doctor—the sort of mythical, unflappable physician who could reach unreachable patients. But when a new admission to the critical care unit almost died his first night on call, he found himself scrambling. Visions of mastery quickly gave way to hopes of simply surviving hospital life, where confidence was hard to come by and no amount of med school training could dispel the terror of facing actual patients.
This funny, candid memoir of McCarthy’s intern year at a New York hospital provides a scorchingly frank look at how doctors are made, taking readers into patients’ rooms and doctors’ conferences to witness a physician’s journey from ineptitude to competence. McCarthy’s one stroke of luck paired him with a brilliant second-year adviser he called “Baio” (owing to his resemblance to the Charles in Charge star), who proved to be a remarkable teacher with a wicked sense of humor. McCarthy would learn even more from the people he cared for, including a man named Benny, who was living in the hospital for months at a time awaiting a heart transplant. But no teacher could help McCarthy when an accident put his own health at risk, and showed him all too painfully the thin line between doctor and patient.
The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly offers a window on to hospital life that dispenses with sanctimony and self-seriousness while emphasizing the black-comic paradox of becoming a doctor: How do you learn to save lives in a job where there is no practicing?
I wanted to read this book because I find the medical field interesting and thought that it would be cool to get the inside scoop into how doctors are trained. I think that McCarthy did an amazing job giving readers a glimpse into the life of an intern, not just the medical parts, but the thoughts and feelings that interns experience.
What was surprising to me was that McCarthy (and the other interns) were as unprepared as they were at the start of their internship. I guess I always thought that the doctors you encounter at the hospital had more confidence in what they are doing. After reading this book, I view doctors more like regular people.
I also appreciated the way that McCarthy gave readers resolutions to the patients that he encountered, where there was resolution. I was wondering about some of the patients and hoping that I would find out what happened to them. On the other hand, some patients just disappeared, which kept it realistic.
The criticism I have about the book is the language. Perhaps interns drop the f-bomb frequently in conversations, but it wasn’t necessary in the book. Readers beware, you will have to skip over many curse words. It is unfortunate, because if it weren’t for the foul language, I would recommend this book to teens potentially interested in a career in medicine. As it is, I would have to rate this as an adults only book. I am not naive enough to think that teens don’t curse, but I wouldn’t recommend a book to them in which there is cursing.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.