CONDITION CRITICAL: The Story of a Nurse Continues by Echo Heron

CONDITION CRITICAL: The Story of a Nurse Continues

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Although prone to self-dramatizing hyperbole, former coronary care nurse Heron (Intensive Care: The Story of a Nurse, 1987) is passionate and persuasive in this second memoir cataloguing the frustrations of the profession that ultimately burned her out. Heron says she likes nursing because she enjoys helping people. But she's beginning to wonder if nursing is good for her health: Arrogant doctors, callous administrators, and an overwhelming workload combine to put Heron into a perpetual rage as she strides through the corridors of San Francisco's Redwoods Memorial Hospital. There is raw emotion in her sketches of such patients as the woman dying of cancer whose doctor refuses to prescribe pain medication though she is in agony (thanks to Heron, she eventually gets morphine). Meanwhile, the rest of her life is looking up. Her first biography has hit the bestseller lists; she's getting fan mail from readers; and she has overcome her terror of public speaking. Asked to address the graduating class of the nursing school she attended, she is full of brave new words (""I progressed into a narrative about how...nurses are often deprived of autonomy and respect""). She even enters into a romance; but the man, 14 years her junior, starts to back away after a few months. Realizing that she is ""in the land beyond burnout,"" Heron leaves the hospital and moves to Montserrat as the caretaker of a vacation house whose owners rarely use it. There, surrounded by gorgeous views, gargantuan insects, and lush vegetation, she finds the peace she craves--for the moment. Partly a lonely woman's cry for companionship, partly the story of her transition from nurse to full-time writer, and partly a vivid portrait of life at a major hospital. The first two portions sometimes lag, but the third -- which is the bulk of the book -- is an engaging read.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Fawcett Columbine/Ballantine