The House of God: The Classic Novel of Life and Death in an American Hospital
The House of God: The Classic Novel of Life and Death in an American Hospital

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Now a classic! The hilarious novel of the healing arts that reveals everything your doctor never wanted you to know. Six eager interns -- they saw themselves as modern saviors-to-be. They came from the top of their medical school class to the bottom of the hospital staff to serve a year in the time-honored tradition, racing to answer the flash of on-duty call lights and nubile nurses. But only the Fat Man --the Clam, all-knowing resident -- could sustain them in their struggle to survive, to stay sane, to love-and even to be doctors when their harrowing year was done.

From the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews:

  • Loved it the Second Time Around
    I read this book in the early 1980's and laughed out loud then. I read it recently and laughed twice as hard. This is a classic!
    It kind of makes you want to have day surgery all the time & never spend a night in a hospital!...more info
  • A lot of work for the good parts
    I bought this book because I had heard many mixed reviews about it from people in the medical profession. I myself have found that there are a few nuggets of insightful commentary hidden amongst the sexist, racist, mindless, lewd and all together poorly written drivel which makes up most of the book. This being said, the book can be pretty funny at times, and might be worth a read for a laugh or two if you can stand all the pointlessly captalized words. ...more info
  • The House of God: The Classic Novel of Life and Death in an American Hospital
    If you are a health-care professional who works or has worked at a large municipal inner-city teaching hospital, you'll feel that Shem was writing about your experiences. It's subtitle includes the wold "classic." It is just that among its countless "cult" followers. As the large municipal inner-city teaching hospital* fades away, it reminds one of the good and the bad of what was the norm from 1910-1970. It's a great gift to anyone who had listened to your stories over the years and is now working in one of the "sterile" versions of those old crucibles of the "iron men" (and women) of yore.

    *Think of MGH, Bellevue, Charity, Cook County, Grady, Parkland, etc., 40 years ago. If you're "from" one of them or somewhere similar, it's a must-read item. ...more info
  • Interesting look inside medicine...
    A fascinating look inside a doctor's year as an intern. This semi-autobiographical tale does come off as a bit dated at times, but it's influence can be felt whenever you watch an episode of St. Elsewhere, Scrubs, or even Grey's Anatomy. An interesting read that I highly recomend to anyone doing any kind of internship....more info
  • Love this book!
    I read this book while recovering from a spinal fusion several years ago. I'd had my surgery at a large teaching hospital and read it to pass the time while I was hospitalized. Every resident, intern, fellow, etc who walked into my room seemed a little un-nerved to see me reading this...but I thought that maybe if I kept them on their toes, the'd keep me on mine.
    As an MRI/CT Technologist, daughter of an RN, and sister to a pharmacist, I could relate to the experiences in the book. This should be a must-read for all medical personnel!...more info
  • A Classic Read
    I read this hilarious and thought provoking book years ago while a student at Georgetown Medical School. I re-read it every few years to recapture memories of the insane and craziness situation of being an intern at a big time teaching hospital. The book reads better as time passes by. One needs to read it with an open mind and avoid being so judgemental of the cynical and silliness nature of the characters and events inside the House of God or so many other similar Houses of God out there in this country. For those who are not in the medical profession, it is still a terrific guide inside the mind of medical professionals....more info
  • Not a fan of his style but hits the mark in many ways
    This book is a "characture" of the life of a first-year resident in a large urban teaching hospital. Like all charactures, certain features are exaggerated to the point of absurdity. Still, there is much that rings true in these pages.

    I found Shem's prose choppy and his character development somewhat abbreviated and symbolic, but again the characters were charactures of themselves and not intended to be "real" in the usual sense of character development.

    The rules of The House of God are interesting, and a few I found worth actually passing on, like I. "Gomers go to ground" and III. "AT A CARDIAC ARREST, THE FIRST PROCEDURE IS TO TAKE YOUR OWN PULSE."

    The one thing that Shem captures well is the coping mechanisms used by medical professionals, especially in high-stress medical sectors like Emergency Medicine. "Black humor" and sarcasm carry the day in the ED.

    I've worked in emergency medicine for more than 15 years and I think that anyone who works in the ICU or ER certainly should check out this book. It is a "quotable". ...more info
  • must read for all interns
    I read this book in the middle of internship at a busy NYC hospital, and I believe it is a must read for all interns. The book is about how internship at one of the Harvard Hospitals breaks several interns, who ultimately decide to continue in psychiatry rather than internal medicine. While laws now limit the hours we work and I have yet to see a 'tern broken, several points in the book resonate with me and have made me a better doc!
    Most importantly, my #1 goal is to "buff and turf" the patient--meaning get the patient well enough to transfer them away. When other 'terns deviate from this policy, I have watched them get overwhelmed. Other important rules of medicine are reiterated in the book's appendix and are worth reading. Those who are not in medicine but who are curious about the field should also read this book. The characters are great and really portray hospital life accurately. To read this book is to "live through" an internship!...more info
    This book is so clever and witty!! I am a third year medical student and after this book was suggested to me by many of my preceptors, i finally found some time to read it!!! If you love the TV series "SCRUBS," then you'll LOVE THIS BOOK!!! ...more info
  • Gotta read it.
    I read this as a first year med student, when everything to come was a great mystery. The world of the training institution (think large, urban teaching hospital here) comes alive in this book, and while it seemed to me at the time that much of it must have been "buffed" by the author to make it more interesting, it turns it out is pretty right on.
    I hope it doesn't shatter the readers' confidence in their doctors; what comes accross as a lack of compassion amongst Interns & Residents is just a symptom of the duress of their training ordeal (and their lack of sleep). Happily, excellent skills are usually attained by the concentration of work done, and compassion, if flagging in a few, returns to most all not long after Residency ends....more info
  • If You Like Black Humor, Read This Book
    Since I am not a medical professional, I certainly cannot comment on the accuracy of Shem's book. But, as a member of an ethnic group that values black humor I can testify that this one hilarious title.

    The characters are interns in an urban teaching hospital. As such they are under pressure no human should have to endure. Their response is to laugh, darkly. In my opinion if they hadn't laughed they'd have lost their minds.

    There are so many wonderful characters--the Fat Man, the resident who knows all, Little Otto, "whose name still rings no bells ding, ding in Stockholm." I'm not explaining Little Otto to you; go read the book.

    _The House of God_ was written in the 1970's and is a product of that time. Shem needs to revise the book to tell the world what horrors managed care has brought to the lives of overworked and underpaid interns and residents. I have my suspicion that wrangling with insurance companies has tripled their insane workload.

    If you are fortunate enough to be under the care of a good physician, read this if only to appreciate how damn hard they work....more info

  • real nuts & bolts story
    was having a tough time dealing with stuff in Nursing school, got handed this by a friend, and it helped sort out the truly important stuff from the personality issues of those teaching!
    very well worth the read!...more info
  • house of god
    The House of God should be mandatory reading for anyone in the medical field. I ordered 5 copies to give to friends. It may be old but still a keeper. Amazon delivery was flawless & on time as promised. I wish it was hard cover. ...more info
  • Second read
    I first picked up this book in 1982; I read it for a second time this week. There is little character development as the book evolves through this one resident's personal experience. Aside from the drum beat style the author uses to describe residency training, the reader gets a sense of cynicism toward medical education, the health care system, and the human condition. All of which are sadly real. I feel badly for residents. They are abused. It's true the endless stream of patients with their various needs & agendas can wear literally one out, but within the text, I looked for a sense of purpose in the main character's decision to become a doctor in the first place; I never found it. The main character would have been more interesting given a sense of direction after residency. With all due respect, I found the book superficial; I will likely not read it again. Thank you. ...more info
    As a medical professional (a nurse) I loved this book. The boyfriend (a 4th year medical student) and I both agree that this is as close as to the real world as anything else published. Medical people will love it for its dark and real-to-life humor. Lay people will hate it for the same reasons. If you have a significant other in the medical profession- read this book and you will only begin to understand our stories and our frustrations with our job. The boyfriend is giving it to his mom who has absolutely no idea what goes on in between the brick walls of a hospital to help her understand that we aren't calous about our work. When you DAILY work with others hovering over the edge between life an death, the strain can get to you if you can't laugh. And this book will make you laugh, even in its darkest hour....more info
  • Interesting read
    Being in the health care field myself, I found this book very easy to relate to. If I were in a different field, I would probably find this book rather unnerving, which is why I enjoyed it....more info
  • Exaggerated, but true, particularly a few years ago
    I did my residency in the 1990s and I can assure you that it wasn't all that different than that depicted in Shem's book. The unbelievable workload, chronic lack of sleep, exposure to illness and death, all mixed with the constant pressure to be brilliant, hardworking, and efficient to impress pompous and seemingly callous superiors is a recipe for warping a person into an automaton. I just counted down the days until it was over. But the experience leaves you changed, hopefully not scarred, and now as an attending in a large BMS, I am glad that the schedules are more humane for our residents and interns, yet I somehow feel that they are soft and coddled because they can't work more than 80 hours/wk. Anyway, this experience is depicted well in HOG, and I think it would be hard for someone who hasn't experienced this to appreciate this book. If a layperson finds it horrifying, then maybe they will experience a little of what it was like for those of us who had to live it. The dark humor is extremely real, the sexual escapades were enjoyed by some, but not all of us, in the trenches. "Buff" and "turf" are terms I hear on a regular basis. I didn't care for the ending of the book; Roy's career choice seemed unlikely, but I'm guessing that's what happened to the author. Overall, the book brings to light some of the horrors of medical training, but sensationalizes it to a degree. The humor is at times adolescent, but still I had to laugh out loud at some parts. I'm sure I wouldn't give the book five stars if I hadn't gone through a fairly grueling internship myself though.

    ...more info
  • Changed my direction
    I first read this masterpiece as a pre-med student in 1980. I enjoyed it, yet thought "this can't be real". It was too dark, too hilarious to be real. After discussing it with clinical interns and professors who were MDs, I learned how true-to-life it was. I still thought it was funny, sad, and heartwrenching at times but I no longer thought of it as untrue. So, I switched my major to Economics instead. A must read for everyone working in health care or using health care (basically everyone). I would also suggest the movie "Article 99" which seems to be based on this book. ...more info
  • A Huge Disappointment
    Waited until after residency and fellowship to read this book. Amusing how many of the phrases have become part of the vernacular in medicine but, overall, the stories are painfully boring and redundant. This book is mostly of historical interest only. Wouldn't put it at the top of my "must read" list....more info
  • Changed Harry Hill's life
    Per John Koski of the 'Books' column in the Daily Mail April 2004, when asked "Have any books changed your life?", the comedian Harry Hill replied, "'The House of God' By Samuel Shem, a novel about a junior doctor in America which takes the lid off the idea of medicine being a vocation. I read it when I was a junior doctor and it made me give up my job."...more info
  • I couldn't put it down
    This book deserves praise. The characters and events in the book are just amazing. 1984 used to be my absolute favorite book. I'm glad to say the torch has been passed (sorry George). The sexuality of the first chapter will captivate, the stories throughout will horrify, Jo will piss you off, you will love The Fat Man. Anyone looking for a great read will not be disappointed....more info
  • Great Book but out of date
    Great book which reflects medical training about 30 years ago.

    However, with the new emphasis on work hour regulations, an 80 hour week, no call, and relatively few American medical graduates going into the type of Internal Medicine training described in the book, it is kind of a fossil.

    ...more info
  • Ups/downs, downs, downs...
    As a medical student this book was recommended on several accounts by both patients, residents and fellows and held in high acclaim.

    To be honest, upon reading, I found the lead character rather unlikable. He is transparent as he projects those he holds in favor in a bright light (which is understandable given it's his book) and those he dislikes as people who can do no right-Joan and her casserole is a case in point. In this sense, he does what psychologists would refer to as splitting, and I found it shallow. Beyond this, I personally felt him to be rather self-righteous, whiny, and complaining while holding those he held in favor in high esteem. I gave up around page 163 out of lack of interest for his character. He could have jumped off a ledge as Joan's father for all I cared!

    That said, he seems to have amassed many fans among the layman and is recommended reading by the general public- I can't endorse this, however. Happy hunting, should you so choose. I am in the minority of negative reviews, so it seems......more info
  • in response to Jessica Tate's review
    It seems you expected the author to share his thoughts. Perhaps interns don't think any more? I know I didn't. My brother maintains I became a zombie during internship. We were so swamped with mundane tasks that we'd get through them as well as we could and drop into bed, thankfully. I never dreamed during that time, except on vacation, when I had nightmares about the hospital every night. I found the book true to life, except for the sexual escapades, which fell victim to the Zeitgeist, and I remain grateful to Shem for daring to write it. (Disclaimer: Though I did take antidepressants briefly during internship, I am now reasonably happy in private practice and have enough time to pursue all the hobbies I had as a medical student and before that. A study published in the British Medical Journal found one-half of female interns and one-third of their male colleagues had a major depression at some time during their first year. So I'm normal, and Shem didn't make it up. And he did keep his day job - didn't you know?)...more info
  • House of God
    I first read parts of this book when I was a young nursing student back in the 70's. While the references to technology are outdated, it still packs a punch as it describes the suffering of interns and patients. I do NOT like the sexual references to nurses but then again, thats the way thing were when this book was written. At least we are portrayed as being caring and smart. It gives a good overview of the maturation of our medical population as they go through schooling. ...more info
  • I wanted to give it 6 stars!
    This book knocked my socks off! I loved it as a 4th year med student and I love it more as an intern! Humor like this is a way to survive life in the hospital and we read it as part of our intern book club! A must read!...more info
  • Classic hospital satire
    I've read this book 2 1/2 times now. The first time I only got through half - I was a premed and being a liberal feminist I was offended by the treatment of women. The second time I read it all the way through - I was a first year med student and after ignoring the sexist stuff it was a very funny read - but not all of it was accessible to me with my limited medical knowledge at the time. The third read was recently as a 4th year student. Even more hilarious now that I've been through the experience of the wards. Highly recommended!...more info
  • Recommended read for medical students
    Recently while we were riding in the car together, my boyfriend was updating me on the condition of his sick grandfather. The week before his grandpa had been hospitalized after a fall, but a CT scan showed an intestinal perforiation. His condition was complicated by the fact that he suffered from diabetes and severe obesity after a lifetime of eating Wisconsin cheese and fried foods on the farm. My boyfriend was upset because the operation had not gone well and the surgeons took hours longer than had been expected. His grandfather was now in the burn unit of the hospital waiting a transfer to the regional medical center. As soon as my boyfriend got this information out about the surgery I immediately started explaining how the surgeons probably had more infection to clean out of the abdomen then they had expected and how his grandfather was probably in the burn unit because the wound could not have been closed up very well on account of it being abdominal surgery that needs to drain, but also that with all of his grandpa's stomach fat it probably just did not close because it's impossible to stitch fat together . . . Argh! Awful, awful me! Here my boyfriend is concerned about his grandfather's life, and I'm rambling on about what little I can guess about the surgery being the "knowledgeable" second year medical student that I am. I didn't even ask how the poor old guy was doing. And worse yet, I didn't realize what I was doing until my boyfriend interrupted me, "Elizabeth, enough! My grandpa is not incisions that won't close or infection! I can't believe you! You haven't even asked me how he's doing. What are you learning in medical school?!"

    It is this moment in my life, being chastised by someone I love for not showing concern for a patient and his family, that really brought to life for me the book, The House of God. It brought back memories of Berry's concern for Roy as he became unfeeling and emotionless towards the "gomers" that he cares for. The book really illustrated for me how becoming a physician is a process of socialization and so often we are trained out of being caring human beings and turned into analytical, procedure-loving robots, void of feelings or concern. As someone who wants to go into family practice and deal with the "whole patient - mind, body, spirit" I never thought this desensitizing could happen to me - and yet unknowingly I may have lost touch with my nurturing and caring self (if only for a moment).

    My only criticism about the book is that it only portrays the negative ways in which physicians try to cope with the stresses and insults that medicine deals out each day. One doctor in the book is obsessive/compulsive about running, Roy seems to get his release from sexual exploits, and one young resident even kills himself. While I certainly recognize that this can happen it left me wondering about what I may become and how I could "save myself" from this inevitable demise....more info

  • Laws of the House of God (and GOMERs *do* go to ground)
    I read *The House of God* the year after I completed my own internship, while running a rural clinic (a la NORTHERN EXPOSURE, but back during the Carter Administration) and contending with the first onslaught of Managed Money (also known as Mangled Care).

    It was strange. I recognized the unarguable truth of the Laws of the House of God, and knew the Fat Man and Jo (the Journal Club Maniac) and all the slurpers and sleazebags and "physician entrepreneurs" for whom I'd spent a year of my life doing scut while salvaging their patients. I couldn't stop laughing through the first half of the book, and then a curious thing happened.

    The second half of the novel left me more and more depressed, remembering the bleakness and pain of that year, and summoning up the hard lessons I had learned -- and was still learning as a young physician in the first years of practice. It reminded me that no matter what I did, the slurpers and the self-righteous stuffed shirts in my profession were going to win. They were going to keep on degrading and destroying patients and their families, gorging on the increasing wealth being poured into "the health care industry," and beating the hell out of decent physicians who actually dared give a damn about the humanity of the people who come to us for treatment.

    And now, nearly three decades later, the laughs are completely gone and the truth is beyond concealment. *The House of God* is a wonderful glimpse of life as a scutpuppy back in the '70s, yes -- but more than that, it's a prophetic anticipation of the destruction of what was once a pretty decent profession, working to achieve something more than a favorable return on investment.

    The '70s weren't "the good old days" by any stretch of the imagination, but who could've believed back then that the 21st Century was going to be so godawfully much worse?...more info

  • Harrowing portrayal of PGY life
    Disclaimer: No, I'm not an MD. Yet. Check back with me in ten years or so.

    That said, coming from a family where every other person is an MD, RN or allied health provider, I've spent more time in and around the medical profession than I care to think about. I also spent two years as a volunteer patient care liaison in the Emergency Department where this book takes place. (Yes, it's the old BI, nowadays amalgamated into BI-Deaconess Medical Center. For that extra touch of realism, take the Green Line D to Longwood, go sit in the plaza outside the Shapiro Clinical Center and read this book. The Wing of Zock will be two hundred feet up Brookline Ave, and if you walk half a block past that, you'll see the old ED.)

    "House of God" isn't all that well written, but it is truthful in a way that very few of its more polished brethren can hope to approach. Put bluntly, life in medicine today is about as far from what you see on "ER" and its ilk as you can get. It's a world of bad caffeine, inhuman call schedules and increasingly sicker patients, more and more micro-management of patient care and less and less regard for the people who provide it. In such a world, it is small wonder that your average emergency MD goes in knowing that he or she will be completely burned out after maybe five or ten years in practice.

    As a volunteer, I watched scores of MS and PGYs (medical students and interns/residents, in Medspeak) stumble through exactly the same trials the protagonists of "House of God" face, except none of them got to score with the nurses, and most of them suffered the same kinds of breakdowns, too. The punch of this book hasn't diluted any with time, either - if anything, its key points are even more salient in this world of managed care and patient-a-minute "efficiency" mandates, where doctors and nurses are increasingly seen as faceless, disposable "health services providers."

    Read this book, and then go give your doctor a big hug. After what he or she went through to earn those letters, it's far too well deserved....more info
  • Classic!!
    I read this book 3 times.

    Fist time as a college student. I had been told if I was going to medical school then I had to read it. I thought it was the most perverted, sexist, racist and generally horrid piece of trash I had ever come across. I could not for the life of me understand why anyone would tell me this was a book to read.

    Second time was as a 3rd year. I still thought it was pretty bad but perhaps had some redeeming moments and was worth reading.

    Third time was the middle of internship - before the kinder gentler 80h work week limits - on my one vacation of the year. I literally fell out of my chair splitting my sides laughing. ...more info
  • Perhaps a bit dated, but a Must-Read, nonetheless
    I didn't read this book until I was a resident. The hospital I trained at wasn't anything like this in actuality, but the personalities, struggles, and oddities seem to be universal. A must-read for anyone in medical training. ...more info
  • Too True
    My mother was an RN in a Jewish teaching hospital, so I grew up familiar with 'Buff 'n Turf', Gomers, etc. I also frequently ran into naked interns in our bathroom at 6 am; my mother was a firm believer in RN's providing 'terns with a well-rounded education. From that angle alone I can attest to the truthfulness of this book.

    I am also a health care provider (EMS), and this book used to be required reading for our Paramedic students before they started their hell year (until the college discovered the contents of the book and yanked it from the curriculum).

    Based on my experiences, I think anyone involved with any aspect of health care, or anyone interested in entering the field, should read this book. Yeah, a lot of stuff may not apply anymore, especially in the current sexual-harrassment era, but there's still a lot of insight to be gained from the book. I think it's a pretty accurate reflection of the culture of medicine, from the raw, dark, and frankly sexual humor, to the foxhole-camaraderie, to the unavoidibly depressing aspects. And there are a few clinical nuggets to be learned from the Fat Man ("In an emergency...").

    Perhaps most importantly, I think it's a finely written book and a good read. I read it for the first time when I was 12, and I've read it many times since. It's been a pleasure every time....more info
  • Blew a few minds at the time...should be required read.
    At the time, Doctors were Gods, and nurses were slaves. The patient was somehow a non-being. The book was right for its time, and is one that is enjoyable thirty years later. Howl with laughter, cringe in fear, this tumescent book will engage you throughout. ...more info
  • Not well-written, unnecessarily alarming
    This book came out in the wake of similar titles like MASH and Catch-22, and describes life as an intern at a hospital in the 1970s. I read it in 1997, and it made me very sad about the state of medicine in this country.

    Fortunately, reading some of the some of the location descriptions in the book, it dawned on me that the hospital in the book is Beth Israel in Boston, where I grew up.

    I mentioned the book and my realization to my mother, who said that back in the 1960s and 70s, Beth Israel had the reputation of being more or less a butcher shop, a good place to go if you wanted to wind up dead nice and fast, vastly different from their current positive reputation....more info
  • Keep Your Day Job
    I love reading and there have only been three novels in my life which I forced myself to read (the first was part of a book club so I had to read the book in its entirety to discuss with the group, the second one was loaned by a good friend who loved it so I gave it the benefit of the doubt but I did not complete it, and this one).

    There seems to be a consensus in the book reviews for this book that if you're a resident and read this book, it is a sarcastic but realistic portrayal of life as an intern and if you're an outsider, it's disturbing. I am an outsider and yes I did find it disturbing. I don't doubt that it might reflect reality. But the writing is poor, the character development non-existent and the plot nowhere to be seen. In one book review, it stated the characters are great and really portray hospital life accurately. In my opinion, this could not be further from the truth. I kept waiting for the protagonist to share some of his inner thoughts - or just thoughts period, with the reader. One sentence here and one there alluding that he may want to kill himself just doesn't cut it (no pun intended). I patiently (again, no pun intended) but persistently plodded through the book waiting, expecting... giving it the benefit of the doubt, since the book was hailed as a classic and because I am interested (as much as an outsider can be) in the field of medicine/health. But character development never came. And this applies to all the characters. Sure, it was interesting to learn about the BUFF and TURF and Gomers Don't Die which we read about in the beginning of the book, but to still talk about it one-third through the book, and then half way through the book, and then two-thirds through the book... Just the same thing over and over again. BUFF and TURF, BUFF and TURF, BUFF and TURF. On and on and on... You call that insight! Enough already! I suggest the author keep his day job (MD).
    ...more info
  • Pure Poison
    I'm goint to give you the advice nobody gave me: if you plan on being a doctor, do not read this book until you are well into your residency. Do not read it if you are in pre-med. Do not read it before your internship. This book is the most disconcerting, alarming and depressing books ever written. Shem, brilliant in the art of storytelling, creates a hospital out of hell, where basic human emotions are at loss, where nobody cares, where nobody is responsible or functioning normaly--as a doctor, as a human being. And Shem does this with such force and delivery that you can actually believe that such hellish places exist, that there's no hope or love in hospitals, just a perverted dance with death and despair.
    Brilliant book. Wonderful writing. Pure poison....more info
  • That's the Way It Was
    I read this book when I was a medical resident at a Southern BMS (Best Medical School), and I was convinced that the author ("Dr. X" at the time) was a colleague! His language, descriptions of patients, anecdotes, and staff portrayals were too similar not to have come directly from the wards and clinics where I worked. And, I was horrified to see, from another vantage point, what I and my fellow residents were becoming. When I re-read the book decades later, I was grateful that a great many things have changed in our approaches to training new physicians.
    There are two primary aspects of interest in this book: first, it is an uproariously funny book to anyone who trained in an urban medical center in the 1960-1970 era (others will miss 90% of the "in-group" humor), and, second, it is a devastating indictment of the way that physicians were trained at medical centers in the middle of the 20th century.
    It is a good read, but now of most interest to 50+ year-old physicians and nurses....more info
  • It Still Applies Today
    Being a med student and working to "save" lives in the hospital for the last two years, I can totally relate myself to the main character of The House of God. Even if it was written in the 70s, it still applies in 2004. Reading this novel was almost like reading my two years rotating in the hospital. I should have read this book before my rotations started two years ago to know all the Laws of the House of God! I realise that I do hate gomers too! It is a great novel and all med students should read it before heading to start their rotations in the hospitals. Like Roy, I am heading to psych....more info
  • Absorbing and Tragicomic
    Though written some 30-plus years ago, this book is no less fascinating today than it was them. Beautifully written by an author who clearly knew his subject matter. Highly recommended....more info
  • Started strong, fell apart halfway through
    The first half of this book was briliant. I finished my internship 10 years ago (before the rules limiting maximum hours that housestaff can work)and can truly say that it captured the essence of the experience. That being said, the book jumped the proverbial shark about halfway through the book with an orgy in the intern callroom. It all went downhill from there. ...more info
  • Indeed, a classic...
    I read this book years ago, but I still use references from it today with friends and medical colleagues. I even now have a faculty job at one of the referenced hallowed institutions. It's hilarious, focally outrageous, and somewhat self-serving, but it did have some salient, useful insight. Now I want to read it again....more info
  • "How can we care for patients, man, if'n nobody cares for us?"
    This book was BRILLIANT. Scary. Hilarious. Sad. You name probably describes this book.

    I am a high school senior...I bought this book because I know I'm going to medical school and I know I want to be a doctor. I've read other books about the whole internship experience...but nothing like this before. Part of what makes this book so great is that it is told with humor. It is completely dark...but I laughed out loud many times while reading it. From the beginning you start hearing of the rules of The House of God...which are completely riddiculous. But at the end they kind of make sense.

    This book might not be the best for people who are not interested in medicine. I can see how it could be deeply disturbing to the layperson - it was deeply disturbing to me at times, as well. It is just a completely intense satire...the whole way through.

    The ending of the book made me's just...completely undescribeable. You have to read it to understand. I have all of these weird feelings about the book has ever made me feel like this. It'll be around for awhile....more info
  • If it would only be this way
    As a second year medical student whose assignment it was to read this book, I had mixed feelings. Because of all of the other coursework, I was not very excited about the prospects of filling my time with more reading. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when I found myself unable to stop reading, constantly wondering what was going to happen next. Although there are some pretty "racy" scenes, to say the least, I thought they were a well thought out portion of the book. What I did take, however, was the humanness that each of these characters carried with them throughout the book. Without giving too much away, I saw the pain, the sorrow, the humility and anguish that goes into the medical profession on a daily basis. We as future physicians are going to have to deal with a lot of "stuff" as we go along, this book gave us a small, entertaining glance at what that may hold.

    I recommend this book to all readers, preferably for the at least PG-13 and up. This book will be entertaining and educational for the medical and non-medically inclined. You won't get bogged down by medical jargon and lingo. Just sit back and enjoy. Learn what "TURF'ing" is....more info

  • Worthless
    This is an out-of-date, highly fictionalized account of one person's residency. While it may be titillating for some people to read, if you believe these stories, you'll believe anything....more info
  • Too Cynical
    As a second year medical student, I had been told by many people that this was the book to read. However, I found the book too cynical and unrealistic. It was melodramatic at times as well, though it did make me laugh occasionally. I really just didn't care for the overall tone of the book....more info
  • A Classic
    I graduated from medical school in 1987 and finished residency in 1990. I had heard about The House of God for years and I am glad I finally read it. I found it provoking, entertaining, and easy to read. It certainly brings back some all too familiar memories -- though many of the issues remain relevent and contemporary!...more info
  • It's still true
    I've read this book twice. Once before starting medical school and now a second time just completing my residency at the House of God West (HOGW). In any highly stressful environment, be it combat, firefighting, law enforcement and (it would appear) delivering mail, people use essentially the same defense mechanisms to deal with physical and psychological discomfort. HOG does a pretty good job of describing how house staff in a teaching hospital deal with their daily grind.

    Everything in this book is as true in managed care as it was in the transition years of the seventies. I assure you, there is still sex in the hospital. I don't know what happenned to the reviewers that deny this, but it was certainly experienced by me and my cohort of residents. Nurses, medical students and house staff didn't suddenly stop liking sex when the 70s ended. There does seem to be less smoking than is described in the book, however. Go figure.

    The reviews of this book by medical students and even pre-meds are sometimes funnier than the book itself. Honestly, medical students are still on the outside looking in and have about as much place commenting on whether the experiences described in this book depict intern life... as an actor playing an intern on ER. Wait until you've had the call pager for a month straight, then write your review.

    I can't necessarily recommend this book to laypeople; it's not a work of art. But, every single college student filling out those applications and studying for that MCAT should be *required* to read this book.

    And to those laypeople who are somehow shocked by the goings on at a teaching hospital: Just make sure you get that DNI/DNR order straightened out before you too become a gome....more info
  • Great read.....
    This book is a classic. To be fair, it is a bit out-dated. Internship is not quite what it used to be....but many of the stories still ring very true. And, in any event, it is a great read in its own right. If you really want to know what internship is like, get "Hospital Survival: Lessons Learned in Medical Training" by Grant Cooper. But, for pure entertainment and a look at how internship was in the 1970s-80s, read House of God....more info
  • Most docs and interns should read this book.
    I first read this book at the beginning of my internship (2001) and, though I liked it very much, I found that the author's vision of Medicine was way too dark and bitter. It was more of a novel (like Robin Cook's, but actually good) than anything else for me.

    (Some spoilers below)

    Then, I read it again after becoming a doctor. And I don't see this book as a novel anymore. I could relate to almost all of Dr.Basch's (main char) crisis, his initial egomania that made him believe he could 'save the world', his withdrawn from friends and loved ones getting to such point that he'd prefer to hang at the ICU than to be with his girlfriend, seeing his intern friends deteriorate physically and psychologically while unaware of his own decay.

    I was shocked when I realized I went through a lot of the things he had, including dear people acusing me of being cold and absent.

    Some doctors say that internship destroys your inner being, others say that it makes it die and reborn like a Phoenix. Anyway, nobody goes through internship all the way without leaving something behind, and sometimes these things might be what you liked most about yourself. Or the ones that liked you.

    Anyway it is an excellent, fun (very sarcastic) and, now I see, VERY realistic.

    I love this book and I will likely read it again in a couple of years....more info

  • Good But Not Best
    This is now a hallowed classic, yes it's dated (set in the 70s) but that doesn't stop the impact and the occasional period point (like the sexual promiscuity) is easily overlooked.

    I met Shem (a pseudoname)in the 80s at a meeting (he's a psychiatrist from Boston) and although I'm sure other reviewers have met him as well, he was very much full of himself with us. Most of us were not impressed....especially since he was not open to any criticisms of either his book or the issues surrounding patient care failings of the American health care system.

    That said, the book should be required reading for anyone serious about a medical career. But you should read better stuff as well....start with any poem or story by John Stone, William Carlos Williams' Doctor Stories, Richard Selzer's books (especially Letters To A Young Doctor), and Jay Katz' The Silent World of Doctor and Patient....more info

  • "Purty Gud!"
    To heck with this being for med students and interns anyone who deals with patients should read House of God. I remember reading this for the first time in nursing school fifteen years ago. I've read it several more times since then and always find myself laughing out loud. In spite of it being a hilariously funny book it is also a cautionary tale and believe it or not one that I have used daily in my nursing practice. Everytime I lower the bed of a disoriented patient I think of it as preventing a turf to ortho, or (God Forbid) a turf to neuro. When I work with new medical students I often watch them "hearing zebras" and it reminds me to be supportive and helpful. I will honestly say that this book is not for the lay man. It can come across as brutal and unfeeling when in reality the point behind this book is to never stop feeling. Just don't let it kill you and always remember it's probably better to hit 'em with some 'roids. Great Book!...more info
  • Explicit but accurate
    Set in a time frame 30 years ago, this sexually explicit novel portrays an accurate description of a large teaching hospital and a resident's first year of practice after medical school. While some of the characters are clearly stereotypes, it is easy for modern practitioners and the public to identify with the stories and experiences described in this book. Even now, the residents at my own facility reference the "contrived" terminology and suffer through the moral/ethical dilemmas recounted in this novel. I highly recommend it as a character study and as one person's account of the challenges of modern medicine....more info
  • A intern's perspective
    Although frequently exaggerated in it's archetypal depictions of usual "hospital characters", a lot of what is described rings as true today as it did "back then". The hours aren't that different, either (at least not at my institution and various others from what I hear from my resident friends at other hospitals).
    This book is really hilarious and made me absolutely ROAR during times when, as an intern, I had hit some lows.
    I lovingly called this book (in addition to biking to work) my "survival" strategy for keeping sane.
    It's a must read for any intern. Enjoy - and don't take it too seriously!
    ...more info
  • All too real....
    In this age of reality TV, many will be fascinated, repelled, disturbed and intrigued about this look in the life of a resident intern at a large teaching hospital. For those in the know, it is a sarcastic yet honest glimpse of the perils of an intern.

    House of God focuses on Dr. Roy Basch- a new intern who is working at a large teaching institution. Like all interns, he is thrown in with the instruction to "keep the patient alive." He battles grueling schedules, hopeless patients, attendings and disease. He learns from the chief, interns and residents--and even the patients "gomers".

    For those who are unfamiliar with medical training this book would be very disturbing, but for those of us who know what residents go is surprisingly real. I first read this book as an M4- just about to start July 1st internship. As an M4 you are cocky, arrogant and optimistic and this book was funny, sacriligous even. I read it again after finishing residency and was struck by how honest it was to the residency experience..sometimes painfully so.

    I liked the book when i first read it, but i can appreciate it more now...It is surprising that the author was able to capture the feelings of interns and be brave enough to put it into book form....more info

  • In my day, blah, blah....etc.
    I've often heard comments by medical students and non-medics who found this book a little too cynical and unrealistic. I read the book after I finished my House Jobs in the UK (internship) and although there is a degree of artistic licence, I recognized almost every character and situation described on its pages.

    The book gives a truely accurate description of that first year on the job after university and is at the same time both hillarious and deeply depressing. If you are a medical student it's certainly worth a read but perhaps not in the summer holiday before you start working - I doubt you'd ever want to turn up. If you already work in a hospital read it and see if you can spot any of your colleagues in it.

    I can't speak for the States but the training over here has changed alot now and interns are no longer subjected horrors of 3 days without sleep or having to make life and death decisions at 2am with absolutely no hope of senior support. Mind you, at times it was also an aweful lot of fun.

    I'm sure that any junior doctor today will be sick of hearing their seniors harp on about how bad it was in their day and so it's worth you lot reading this book if for no other reason than to realise just how good you've got it now and stop your bloody moaning....more info
  • Scatological. Searing. Hilarious.....Brilliant
    I was somewhat apprehensive when my uncle, a surgeon, suggested I read this indicating, that, in fact, this is what life is like for a medical intern. From the first page forward, I couldn't put it down. Samuel Shem's caustic, witty, and throughly penetrating writing style had me in stiches for most every day during that week over the summer that I read this. As he described the main character's time in the cardiac ward with the cardiologist who "ran for fitness, fished for calm" I thought back to all the cardiologists I knew and said "THAT's It!" they ARE all like this. This eerie must- have- gone -through -this -to -write -with -this- kind- of -realism pervades the book. Everything has the taste of authenticity. The reader laughs about "buffing and turfing" patents to other wards, and "being a wall" in the ER as opposed to the most despicable "seive."
    In short, I loved this book. A truly masterful attempt at capturing the hellacious world of the medical intern and the transformation from college student with only theoretical textbook information to doctor with real world experience....more info
  • Catharsis for the disenchanted.
    As a second-year medical student, this book read more like a horror story than like a "classic novel of life and death in an American hospital." Filled with the cynicism and free thinking that was supposed to embody the 70's, the author's mainstay over-the-top-shocker style of writing immediately becomes dry and lifeless before the reader ever notices how poorly the characters are developed. The book could better be interpreted as an emotional outlet for someone who became disenchanted with medical training, lost their way and exercised defense mechanisms that harmed both colleagues and patients.

    However, the author does bring to light important issues such as how medicine is taught/learned, the sometimes grim realities behind that training and the importance of outside support vs. internal defense mechanisms in maintaining perspective on a challenging course....more info
  • I pity Dr. Shem, and hope that his experiences after his residency were better. Perhaps he was not made to be a physician at all
    "Yes, partly," I said. " I lived through this nightmare because you were with me." (Dr. Roy G. Basch - protagonist)
    "Yes, partly. And you're right: this internship has been like the stuff of dreams, like the overpowering nightmares of childhood: aggression, fear, of retaliation, and then the resolution, where you don't win, you (just) live." (Berry, his girlfriend and a clinical psychologist)

    House of God, Dell publishing, May 1988 edition page 376.

    I first read Samuel Shem. MD's classic in 1979, before i started my internship. I thought it was hilariously funny. The thirteen laws of the House of God, the Gomers, (patients in almost vegetative states, respond better to treatment if you do nothing for them because they never die) TURFING (transferring your patients to another service), BUFFING (documenting procedures on Gomer's charts so the attending physician would think you are treating them, when in fact you are doing nothing), LOL in NAD (Little old ladies in no acute distress--like Gomers don't treat).

    Now, twenty-seven years later, after a Obstetrics and Gynecology Residency at Cook County Hospital in Chicago and many years of private practice I find it insulting to the medical profession.

    Yes, I was scared, yes, I was abused, yes, I made mistakes, and yes, I was ostracized. But Cook County made me a first rate Obstetrician-Gynecologist. And what Dr. Shem seems to forget that Residency is the easy part. Private practice is what's difficult. True, the pay gets better but the responsibility does too. When you are in a residency program there is always someone you can call to help you solve a problem. But when you go out into the Private world: the buck stops on you, and you only. The hours don't get much better; and these days doctors are not respected like in the old days.

    Between patients questioning your judgment, to unscrupulous lawyers: selling their souls for an easy buck--the malpractice suit--it gets worst.

    But i would not trade any pf my residency days, nor any of my private practice days for anything. I am a very lucky man to have practiced an art that is slowly dying. I LOVED every patient, every call--the adrenaline rush exists to this day. I would not had wanted it any other way!

    I pity Dr. Shem, and hope that his experiences after his residency were better. Perhaps he was not made to be a physician at all....more info
  • The House of God: The Classic Novel of Life and Death in an American Hospital
    This book will stir a variety of emotions. If you are in a health care profession then you will probably relate to it's content. I would not recommend this book to someone who has an ill love one. The reality can be kind of harsh even for those of us who are in this world of medicine daily. I have spoke with MD's who lived through this era and say that the book is a good replica of what med school was like back then. Younger docs say that is not exactly like this now but the long hours and no sleep still persist. There are still the occasional doc in the closet with the nurse having sex but health care has improve some since the 60's. Reading the book shows you how frustrating it is to give health care to some people and how sometimes it does not matter what you do you can not heal some people and on the other hand some people just won't die even if they want to. In the end I felt very sorry for most of the characters and strangely enough understood their crazy coping mechanisms....more info
  • A distorted view of an internship
    This is a very uneven book. My internship was many years ago but it's hard to believe it's changed that much. Doctors and nurses having sex in the hospital, often in a very exposed place? I never saw that and think most of the interns were far more interested in getting some sleep rather than sex. It's unbelievably tough, and it's really hard because you know know that your mistakes might kill people, not just result in a bad grade on a test. You begin to feel the weight of responsibility that you will carry around with you likes chains for the rest of your proffesional life. This is a book meant to be a sensationalized book that will sell well, not one that attempts to portray what an interns life is like at a big teaching hospital . My intership was in a good public hospital, and the surpervision and help from a large base of visiting doctors was excellent. And we didn't spend time trying to transfer patiets off of our sevice
    It is well written in a sort of hurried way,so if you read it you may have a good time, but you won't come away knowing much about interns....more info
  • House of God?
    Samuel Shem gives the reader a hysterical, yet frightening view of life as an intern. The deeds and misdeeds of the new doctors at times border on the incredulous, yet demonstrate the irony of the hospital titled House of God. For it is not an institution filled with white-coated divinities, but with people. Humans, who cannot, try as they might, separate themselves from their backgrounds, biases, sexual desires, emotional needs, mistakes---their humanness....more info
  • A+++ Awesome Catch 22 Internship
    A wonderful wildly provocative heartbreaking book. I enjoy the journey of Roy Basch and his fellow interns dissecting the real world in the most famous teaching hospital.

    This book reflects -- how alarming & realistic medicine can be, albeit the irony in medicine inevitably exist in one way or the other.

    My first idiom I learned "Knock My Socks Off" which I perfectly describe in this book. Awesome, Provocative, Brilliant with Wild Sense of Humor!!!=)....more info

  • Excellent, disturbing novel about internship in a teaching hospital

    I have somewhat mixed feelings about this book. It is beautifully written, by a REALLY gifted writer, who describes an intern's experiences (first year training in a hospital after completing medical school) on the units he is assigned to cover.
    One has to have been there (I was, as a nursing student) to follow and appreciate many of this character's experiences. Some sound hyper and exaggerated. This is true for relationships with patients and those with other hospital personnel: from administrators to nursing personnel, ancillaries, and outsiders. The book manages to be hilarious, serious, sad, and often true. Laymen beware! Much in this book is invention, scary to read for potential patients as it describes how interns view new admissions, and how badly they feel treated by their superiors. I'll go with the inventions for what they are, admire the writing, but want to assure future readers there really is concern and compassion for patients in the hospitals I know....more info
    The House of God does a good job of highlighting the issues of iatrogenic morbidity and mortality in a fictional setting.

    I thought this was a great read and was anxious to talk about it with colleagues. However, it seems many people, especially within the medical community, do not like to discuss the fact that medicine can and does harm people. Discussing this novel with a classmate in a joking manner even got me sent to Dean's office during medical school. In spite of all that, I will continue to recommend this novel to anyone interested in pursuing medicine as a career.

    Dr. Bergman has created a classic book of satire that makes the point that although medical education is getting better, patient care is getting worse. I look forward to reading Mount Misery, which I understand is losely based on his training at McLean Hospital.

    Jason Begalke...more info


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