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Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas (Adam Kay) - Book Review

Shanghavie Longanathan, Green Templeton College


‘Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas’ is the hotly-anticipated sequel to the award-winning ‘This Is Going to Hurt’ by junior doctor-turned-comedian Adam Kay. His debut title was always going to be a tough act to follow, arriving at just the right time, when the NHS was on its knees and junior doctors were engaged in open warfare against the government.


Nevertheless, Kay is successful in his undertaking. He highlights the stark contrast between what medics are faced with during the Christmas period and what the rest of us are doing: whilst they’re off making life-and-death decisions after wolfing down their microwaved turkeys in hospitals across the country, we’re snuggled up on the sofa, delaying our responsibilities until the new year.


Recounting the experiences of healthcare professionals during the seasonal period, which are at times heart-wrenching and at other times bizarre, Kay’s latest book admittedly isn’t for those of a weak constitution, nor is it intended for the faint of heart. The stories range from a man who dressed as a turkey for a Christmas party and ended up desiccating, waxing, and circumcising himself in the process, to a little boy who came in with a bright green face, after he had managed to shove an LED light up his nose. The comedian also manages to wittily skewer management and some of their counter-intuitive decisions, from the scrubs vending machine with its ridiculous three-outfits-a-day limit, to the HR gods who wouldn’t grant compassionate leave for a doctor whose grandfather had just passed away. However, Kay doesn’t display too much pity for himself or his colleagues in these stories, and instead we are left in awe at the ingenious ways in which the staff rally round to overcome these situations.

Though some may argue that the story of the self-sacrificing doctor has been done to death, Kay avoids rehashing the same old story and proves that patients have the capacity to produce ever more intriguing stories, which make you delight and despair in equal measure.


Since his debut, the author seems to have matured, or at least become more comfortable, in his retelling of experiences, as testified by his account of when he carried out a surgical termination of pregnancy. His descriptions are incredibly vivid and despite struggling with idea of performing such a difficult procedure, the welfare of the patient was at the forefront of his mind and spurred him to carry out the operation. This is a recurrent theme throughout most of the stories in this book, which highlight in a humorous way how nurses and doctors go above and beyond the call of duty, sometimes for the sake of less-than-thankful patients.

In contrast to Kay’s first book which concludes with the harrowing explanation of the events that led to him quitting medicine, this book ends on a more upbeat note, with the author admitting that he misses the long Christmas shifts.


As we approach the festive season, the book acts as a reminder to us all – to be a bit nicer to all the people who give up their holidays to make sure we get home for ours.



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