How Not to be a Doctor

How Not to be a Doctor
And Other Essays
John Launer
Price: £
  • Hardback
5 Apr 2018
  • Popular Science
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The essential book on how not to be a doctor - and how to be a better one.

How Not To Be a Doctor is the thought-provoking collection of Dr Launer’s most insightful anecdotes, musings and commentaries on the medical profession, which provides us with an understanding of what it takes to be a doctor in the UK. Based on his work as a doctor, as well as his own experiences as a patient, it includes accounts of his travels to far-flung places, including the moment when he was ‘the only doctor in the house’ on a train to Cairo where a ten year-old boy needed an emergency appendectomy. He also shares lessons on the secret language of patient-doctor relations learnt through challenging consultations, concluding that ‘of all professions, doctors are almost invariably the most proficient at not listening.’ He explores the medical taboos so rarely discussed in or outside the medical profession. Are men evolutionarily obsolete? How do doctors reconcile their sexual desires with the objectivity required to examine a patient?  

In this remarkable collection, Launer pulls back the curtain to uncover the day-to-day life of a doctor, and reveals the often humorous and personal aspects of the clinical environment. Combining expertise with humour, directness and a human touch, these essays are a delight to read for the general reader as much as for those working in the medical profession. 


‘An all-round excellent book, which would appeal to a wide range of healthcare professionals and students… a light-hearted way of looking at serious subjects’ BMA Panel of Judges, 2008

'Thought-provoking and wise… Launer writes with eloquent passion, gentle humour and authority about the complexities of what is involved in becoming a good doctor… not only should it be essential reading for every medical student, but qualified doctors should be required to re-read it every year in order to reflect on the wisdom, caring and respect for patients which are contained within it’ Nudge Books

'I raced through this book, laughing, nodding, highlighting and then read some favourite bits again.  Every chapter has a gem of wisdom as well as being so very elegantly written and entertaining. I shall be recommending it to my fellow coaches as virtually all of it applies to us as much as to clinicians: do we understand the exquisite importance of choosing the right words for our questions? Do we always hear what matters most for this client right now? Do we always act on the principle that kindness is every bit as important as our technical know-how? Maybe not – and we need to be reminded.' Jenny Rogers, Co-Author of Coaching for Health

John Launer

About John Launer

John Launer is an honorary lifetime consultant at the Tavistock Clinic in London, the leading training institute in the UK for psychological treatment. He is also an Associate Dean for postgraduate medical education at the University of London.  A doctor and family therapist, he is also a renowned medical columnist and educator both nationally and internationally. Find out more:

Titles by John Launer
Other titles by John Launer