Matters of the heart, both maudlin and medical, combine to make this first novel an only moderately successful variation on a TV soap opera. Jackie O'Neil, only 25, has just been appointed head of the intensive care unit at Sprague General Hospital. Among the desperately ill patients she inherits: Jennifer Hamblett-Stafford, daughter of the hospital's prime benefactor. Hovering over Jenny's bed is Michael Graham, her long-lost love and the doctor she now insists take her case. But there is also the Hamblett family physician, oily Donald Fales, to contend with, and as Jenny hovers near death, the victim of a post-op ""gram negative septicemia"" (call it blood poisoning), Graham is forced into a this-hospital-ain't-big, enough-for-both-of-us showdown with Fales. Meanwhile, back at the nurses' station, pretty Jackie is tossing handsome Mike meaningful glances (""Cut out the soap opera scene,"" a staff doctor aptly reprimands. ""This is a real hospital, y'know ""), while trying to manage a nursing staff that includes an alcoholic homosexual, a hardened junkie and her own jealous roommate. A hypochondriac's heaven of medical miracles and malpractice, Weiner too often substitutes textbook descriptions of hospital procedures for character analysis and plot development. And the wooden ""romance"" between nurse Jackie and doctor Mike cannot support the weight of the author's frequent, longwinded digressions into nursing plights and prejudices.