Apr 21, 2008


by Doctor X

I took too long in reading this book. Partly because of things happening in my family regards to moving; for two weeks I've hardly read anything, and just in bits and pieces. Intern was well suited for that, actually. Based on a diary, it tells of an intern's first year inside a hospital: covering at various times two different internal medicine wards, obstetrics and gynecology, two general surgery units, orthopedic surgery and pediatrics. Although the narrative moves fluidly and with no lack of humor, it doesn't really have a storyline. Most of the characters are met for only a brief paragraph that describes their malady and how the intern dealt with it. Some stories were left hanging, as the author didn't see a patient through to the end of his hospital stay, or just didn't mention them again. Even the other interns and doctors on the staff are so sketchily presented that I had no real sense of who they were. What I did gather was how overwhelmingly demanding the work was. I don't think I'll ever get impatient waiting in an ER room again, having an idea of what hospital staff deal with.

One of the most interesting sections to me was about the obstetrics unit: the time frame was just after doctors had quit using "twilight sleep" all the time, and Lamaze had yet to become popular. The author described how at first he actually preferred to have delivering patients under "twilight sleep" because then he, as intern, was more likely to be given chance to actually do something. If the patient was awake, they didn't want to see the intern delivering their baby. Yet how else was he to get experience? He cleverly figured out a way to get the experience he needed, without making the delivering mothers nervous or robbing the doctors of their moment in the spotlight.

Although many treatment methods in this book are surely now outdated- it being written at a time when polio was still a major threat, people routinely died of hepatitis and cancer treatment was mainly just pain management until the end- the actuality of how doctors reach a diagnosis, deal with troublesome or confusing patients, and occasionally make grave errors (being only human, after all) is probably still true today. I'd be interested to hear what someone in the medical field thinks of this book.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 404 pages, 1965


Bybee said...

My mom doesn't like many books, but this sounds like something that would really interest her. Actually, looking at that date, she might've read it at some point. It looks pretty good to me, too!

Jaimie said...

That is an interesting take on doctors and hospitals. Things have certainly changed.