A poignant journey through the “tragedies and joys of a remarkable career” in hospital patient care.
Before becoming a successful novelist, Watson (Where Women Are Kings, 2015, etc.) spent 20 years as a nurse, and her vast experience informs this memoir. She escorts readers through the hospital wards she’s been assigned to, attests to the work-related trauma that threatened her personal spirit, and celebrates the return on her investment in a nursing career. As a teenager in Britain, Watson stumbled onto nursing courses, found her niche, and never looked back. Her first year as a nursing student proved harrowing, and she describes her attempt to save the life of a newly discovered suicide victim on the floor of his room. This event prompts commentary on frustrating governmental cuts in health care that she believes are crippling critical mental health and social service programs. Written with warmth and a sense of empathy for her patients, the memoir flows through episodes early in her nursing career when she shadowed a midwife through labor and delivery, trained in a pediatric intensive care unit, soothed a child with aggressive brain cancer, and comforted an elderly widow complaining of chest pain but whose appearance and symptoms more directly pointed to a broken heart. Watson also sorrowfully chronicles her own father’s death “in slow motion” in a cancer ward and the palliative nurse who made a lasting final impression on his life. As she notes, the author’s nursing career also had its softer, kinder edges, but her graphic descriptions of operating room procedures and the eye-watering aromas hovering over a surgical nursing unit may leave more sensitive readers lightheaded. The author’s passion for and true love of nursing are evident on every page, and this quality makes the book an absorbing read and a testament to the immense responsibility, diligent work, and compassionate spirit of medical caregivers.
A beautiful homage to the dignified, unsung heroes of hospital care.