The first-person stories of some 40-odd nurses in a variety of fields reveal in a sometimes shocking and sometimes comical fashion what the caring profession is really like. In her search for interviewees, Heron, who told of her own life as a nurse in Intensive Care (not reviewed) and Condition Critical (1994), found few nurses willing to talk openly about their experiences. Thus, the identities of many of the speakers here are concealed by pseudonyms. Heron sought out nurses, male and female, old and young, from a broad geographic and professional spectrum. After introductory biographical sketches, she lets the nurses tell their stories in their own words. Although individually uneven in quality and interest, collectively the stories provide a convincing portrait of nursing as a beleaguered but honorable profession, full of weary, caring men and women. Besides the usual emergency-room tales of dreadful trauma and outrageous behavior and poignant stories of death and dying on intensive care units, a prison nurse matter-of-factly describes the execution by lethal injection of a death-row inmate, a movie-set nurse tells of coping with the tender egos of Hollywood actors and actresses, and an operating-room nurse gives a quick rundown of the typical personalities of surgical specialists (urologists have a bawdy sense of humor, neurologists are total prima donnas). Doctors generally do not fare well in these stories, and the flaws of today's profit-centered health-care system are duly noted and railed against. Of special interest is the chapter on the Oklahoma City bombing, for which Heron interviewed five nurses, with follow-up reports weeks, months, and a year after the bombing. Enlightening for anyone considering entering the field, but unsettling for anyone contemplating entering a hospital.
Read full book review >