The House of God by Samuel Shem is a book that every healthcare professional should read and illustrates what every patient fears most. This satirical novel provides an illustration of the medical internship that all doctors experience. Published in 1978, this book remains a favorite among medical students, interns, residents, and physicians. It has sold over 2 million copies over the last 30 years and has been received with exuberant praise, as well as harsh criticism.
Samuel Shem is a pseudonym of the psychiatrist Stephen Bergman, who wrote the novel based on his real-life experiences during his internship year at Harvard Medical School’s Beth Israel Hospital in 1974. The author brings to life the inappropriate, yet hilarious behaviors that keep healthcare professionals from going insane, all the while maintaining a professional disposition in the presence of their patients.
Having worked in a hospital, I can definitely see the correlation between the material presented in this book and working in healthcare. Some of the situations seem exaggerated, but I wouldn’t put anything out of the realm of possibility. Many reviewers of the novel who read it both before and after experiencing their internship year said they thought it was exaggerated too… that is, until they were an intern.
I loved this book from the very start and literally laughed out loud on multiple occasions. I think it should be required reading for all healthcare professionals but especially for medical students. There are loads of morbid humor and sexually explicit narrations that I’m sure many people would find offensive. However, medical professionals often experience more bizarre, revolting, and morbid situations than most people would ever believe. This book presents a side of healthcare that goes unnoticed by everyone except healthcare professionals and perhaps for good reason. If you work in healthcare and need a good laugh, read this book. If you’re thinking of going into healthcare (more specifically, if you’re going to medical school), this could be a great way to develop an understanding that medicine isn’t like you see on TV. Basically, it’s not always pretty!
I’ll have to read this one again before my internship year, as well as after I’ve experienced the life of an intern. I’ve seen several physicians say you have an entirely different appreciation for it once you’ve actually experienced the situations illustrated. If this book provides any insight to my future in medicine, one thing is for sure: it’s going to be an interesting ride! In summary, I highly recommend this book.
A description in a single word: hilarious.