I’m starting to feel slightly weird and sheepish about the number of medical memoirs I’ve read both lately and in general. I realized I might have a problem when I finished this one and instead of thinking “Whew, time for a breather on this type of book,” I thought, “Oh, no. I hope I haven’t read them all…maybe ranking this one will generate some new Goodreads suggestions.” The fact is, I just gulp these books down and have from childhood. I come from a family where a lot of people work on the periphery of medicine (medical billing, medical transcription, doctor’s office receptionist, various hospital positions…), and I spent my teens and early twenties immersed in veterinary medicine, so these books are very easy to follow and just never get old. And then I went and married a pre-med, so maybe that can be my excuse?
Anyway, this one is a little different from most others. I’ve read books by everything from gastroenterologists to pediatric heart surgeons, but ER doctors are absolutely overrepresented in this genre. The nature of it lends itself perfectly to voyeuristic anecdotes and rumination on life and death. So I was a little surprised that this book could put a different spin on it, but it did. It’s a bunch of very short (1-2 page) stories by all different ER doctors (mostly), nurses, and PAs. It changes the tone of the book more than you might expect. The writing styles are reasonably cohesive, but you can still occasionally get whiplash between them. Rather than one doctor filling a book with his experiences, you get a ton of doctors sharing their best story. It’s an interesting difference.
Most ER memoirs can make you wish that was your life, with all the adrenaline and drama. This book…not so much. This one really does not shy away from some terrible shit. I’m not sure what accounts for that quirk of this particular book, but it has a lot of vignettes that would make you thank your lucky stars you chose a different career. I still really enjoyed it, though.