- Popular Science
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
'Witty and wise. Shows how important it is that doctors are allowed to be human' Kit Wharton, author of Emergency Admissions: Memoirs of an Ambulance Driver
'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
'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
'Humorous, poignant, provocative, and educational . . . the author's opinions and anecdotes offer fresh takes on the ever changing field of medicine and how small changes in patient care have the potential to inspire radical improvements in the industry at large' Kirkus
'John Launer’s essays offer varied and fascinating perspectives on the practice of medicine. His book has the great virtue of being easy to read and his insights bring fresh understanding even to those with a deep knowledge of the subject' Professor Chris Ham, Chief Executive of the King's Fund
‘Insightful, witty and above all, humane. My own practice as a doctor, and a teacher of doctors, has been enriched by reflecting on these stories’ Professor Tim Usherwood, University of Sydney
‘Few write about practising medicine, meeting illness and experiencing vulnerability with more eloquence or openness than John Launer. This collection is warm, wise, generous, thoughtful and thought-provoking. The range of essays is engaging and all are imbued with a moving humanity which offers inspiration and reassurance in equal measure. The reflections and questions posed in these essays are infused with curiosity, rigour and compassion. It is a book to which I will return often and press upon others’ Professor Deborah Bowman, MBE, Professor of Ethics and Law and BBC Radio Presenter
‘John Launer uses his voracious curiosity to sift wisdom from the ordinary events of a doctor’s life. Bursting with wonder and wisdom, this seductively readable book imparts courage and joy in equal measure’ Iona Heath, CBE, former President of the Royal College of General Practitioners
‘John Launer gives full voice to his own story-telling skills in this collection of short articles. He draws widely, from personal experience to imagined worlds, from evolutionary psychology to literary criticism, but he never strays far from the depth of understanding that can be gained from an interaction between patient and doctor, or learner and guide’ Professor Ronald MacVicar, Postgraduate Dean, NHS Education for Scotland
‘With stories about hope, death, love, despair, listening, writing, and evolution, and veering from the trivial to the profound, this book encourages us to consider what it means to be human; and in doing so, how we might become better humans. A must read for every doctor, for anyone who is considering becoming a doctor, or for those who want to understand how medicine really works’ Professor Deborah Gill FRCGP EdD PFHEA, Director, UCL Medical School
‘The GP sitting in their consulting room never really knows what the next patient will bring. Launer, in his masterful collection of essays, recreates this element of surprise for the reader, illuminating the richness of the medical encounter. A gem, for doctors and patients, alike’ Dr Caroline Elton, author of Also Human: The Inner Lives of Doctors
‘The nature and meaning of reflective practice by doctors is currently being hotly debated. John Launer’s entertaining read is also a timely and salutary reminder of the value of reflection’ Neena Modi, Professor of Neonatal Medicine, Imperial College London
‘Bursting with humor and humanity, John Launer's How Not To Be A Doctor is a witty and engaging look at the challenges facing patients and doctors. I found myself nodding along with every page’ Matt McCarthy, author of The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly
‘Using his characteristic blend of deep insight, rare candour and tongue-in-cheek humour, Dr. Launer explores a wide range of topics from the commonplace (why doctors are not good listeners); to the taboo (how doctors deal with patients they find sexually attractive); and to the frankly absurd (what cheddar cheese and healthcare have in common)… required reading for anyone interested in the healing arts’ Frank Vertosick, author of When the Air Hits Your Brain: Tales of Neurosurgery
‘Weaving professional and personal stories with history and theory, Launer gives us a full picture of what it means – and how it feels – to be a doctor today. Both a sober admonishment and joyful celebration of the medical profession, providing depth and colour… Fascinating’ Kevin Hazzard, author of A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back
‘A great book for anyone who wants an insight into the mind of a Doctor. It really shows what goes on behind the white coat (not that we wear them now) and stethoscope… how we think and why we think the way we do’ Dr Nick Edwards, author of In Stitches: The Highs and Lows of Life as an A&E Doctor
‘Truly a precious prescription’ Booklist