How To Fail With Elizabeth Day

S10, Ep6 How to Fail: Jim Down

March 10, 2021

Today's episode is an important one. Jim Down is an ICU doctor on the frontline of the Covid crisis. He is a consultant in critical care and anaesthesia at University College London Hospital, running the intensive care unit at one of London’s busiest hospitals, where life and death decisions are an everyday occurrence.

Despite having spent all his adult life working in these conditions, nothing could have prepared Jim Down for Covid-19. As the pandemic descended in spring 2020, Down found himself under almost unimaginable pressure. He and his colleagues dealt with an unprecedented surge in patients, critically ill from a terrible new disease with no known cure. Down is still working at the frontline, still donning PPE every day, still under extreme pressure as the NHS continues to battle through the pandemic and keep us safe.

He joins me to talk about this, as well as how he manages his own anxiety, why lockdown works (it's worth it, everyone!) and what he's learned from this unprecedented time. He tells me about his awkwardness at being described as a 'hero' and how he deals with the emotional challenge of informing relatives their loved ones have died. Plus, we discuss his failures in adolescence, professional failures and - rather unexpectedly - a failure in stand-up comedy.

Listen to be both moved and informed. Thank you, Jim.


You can watch Jim Down being interviewed on BBC News at the height of the pandemic here.


Jim Down's book, Life Support: Diary of an ICU Doctor on the Frontline of the Covid Crisis is available to order here.


How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is hosted by Elizabeth Day, produced by Naomi Mantin and Chris Sharp. We love hearing from you! To contact us, email


Social Media:

Elizabeth Day @elizabday

How To Fail @howtofailpod 








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