A fictionalized account of the author’s experiences in nursing school during the 1950s.
Jan Winston is studying nursing at a time when women aren’t doctors. Despite the strict rules regarding appearance—floor-length uniform skirts and no makeup permitted—she still finds herself sexually harassed by male doctors. Moreover, because she was raped as a college student at the opening of the novel, the incidents induce tremendous panic. Despite her original concern at telling Allen—the man who will become her husband—about her rape, he reacts with concern and respect. Some of the era’s politics and policies may seem foreign to readers with little knowledge of the time period, and even Jan occasionally finds herself at a loss to follow all the rules; for instance, she’s reprimanded by a superior for introducing herself to a child psychiatric patient by her first name rather than “Miss Winston.” The interactions between Jan and her superiors, particularly when she’s rebuked, are among the most believable in the book. A fair number of informative medical factoids are included, such as the definition of an aneurysm, lending a patina of believability to the vignettes about various types of patients, although the facts could have been better integrated into the story’s flow. The timeline is also somewhat unclear; some chapters have date stamps, but many don’t, so it’s difficult to tell, for example, how much time Jan spends on each rotation. Bizarrely, a little less than halfway through the book, the narrative focus abruptly shifts from Jan to Allen as he deals with the fallout from an accident involving his father. The change occurs without any transition, and several pages later, the text returns to Jan. Furthermore, the text is riddled with typography errors—missing quotation marks are the most common culprit—and antecedent references are often ambiguous.
A predictable story that’s enjoyable enough for readers interested in medicine.