nurses book coverReviewed by Alyssa Katanic

I don’t know about you, but I hate going to the hospital! I try to limit my experiences to happy ones, like new babies! But every once in a while we end up in the ER. While there, the nurses make all the difference! I am always watching their facial expressions to try to figure out what they think about our situation, if they seem to have faith in what the doctor is doing or if they seem annoyed, and their attitude and tone of voice can bring me relief or worry. In fact, I have a team of nursing friends that I often call when I am worried about something. They just seem to be able to figure out at what point worrying is a good thing. I have often wondered what it is really like to be a nurse. (“Does knowing what you know make you worry more or less?” I once asked a friend. She replied, “More!” Which made me worry!) The Nurses: A Year of Secrets, Drama, and Miracles with the Heroes of the Hospital, by Alexandra Robbins, walks readers through the vast ups and downs in the field of nursing, and quite a bit of it took me by surprise.

Whenever you watch a popular television drama that focuses on a specific work environment, such as a hospital or a police station, you always wonder if real life is anything like what you are watching. Most of the time the answer is, “Absolutely not even close!” Nurses showed me that the real life hospital drama can sometimes be even more intense. Having also written on the subject of sororities and the sisterhood and hazing that are a part of such groups, Robbins is thorough in showing readers that the hardest part of nursing is often fellow nurses and other coworkers. I have never perceived this during my own hospital visits (perhaps we just have great hospitals in our area?), but it was amazing to read of the childish cliques and power plays that not only make work miserable for the nurse, but also affect safety and the well being of the patients.

Nurses is written with a mixture of information style writing, where Robbins speaks of statistics and different cases where nurse abuse has occurred, sexual relationships have come to light, hospital administrations have cut corners for the sake of revenue and left the ability to provide proper care in the deficit, and many other issues. Robbins then fleshes these things out by providing biographic narrative of a set of nurses in the same area but vastly different hospitals. Her footwork in interviewing nurses all over the world is evident. The stories are sometimes triumphant and exciting, and often sad, leaving me to wonder how my friends experienced things and realizing that they don’t talk much about it. Robbins points that out, too; the sisterhood of nursing is often one of secrets. They don’t talk about it much to outsiders, because most “normal” people just wouldn’t get it, but she wants readers to know that nurse safety and bullying within the ranks are some serious issues that need to be brought to light so that administrators will be forced to deal with the problems.

Nurses is wrapped up with an excellent chapter titled, “What You Can Do.” Within it, Robbins has a section for us as patients with advice from nurses for patients when we must visit the hospital. There is also a section for aspiring nurses and another for current nurses offering encouragements in areas such as: keep on learning, be a team player, and never stop loving your job.

If any of my children were to express a desire to become a nurse, I would definitely put Robbins’ Nurses at the top of their prerequisite reading list. Nurses is also a good read for those who want to better relate to the nurses in their lives, or for nurses who want to know if there are others who have to put up with the struggles and temptations (like the ease of swiping “wasted” narcotics) that they may face at work themselves.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Alyssa Katanic is a wife and homeschooling mother of 7 children under 11 years old. She loves reading and collecting great books to share with others and knows that one can never have too many!

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Workman Publishing Group. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.