A veteran nurse practitioner reflects on her time working in a clinic for elderly, low-income patients in this debut memoir.
In the 1980s, Crane left her job as a nurse with the VA to take charge of a new senior clinic in a high-rise public housing complex on Chicago’s West Side, an experience she chronicles in her vivid, unflinching book. She was eager for the chance to prove her mettle and relished the opportunity to run her own clinic independently. But from her first day on the job, it was clear she might be in over her head. Her Evan-Picone suits were out of place in the makeshift, roach-infested clinic, where the single bathroom doubled as a conference room. Gangs and violence were a problem in the surrounding neighborhood. But the real challenge was getting used to her co-workers and patients. Though her instinct was to stick to giving checkups and dispensing medical advice, the author soon found herself planning funerals for people who had no family, defending the elderly against scammers, and visiting local bars to track down one woman’s alcoholic son. In this thoughtful and compelling memoir, Crane’s keen eye for detail brings her stories, by turns heartbreaking and humorous, to life on the page. Graphic accounts of treatments, like an at-home pelvic exam she performed on a seriously ill woman, are disturbing but reflect the reality of caring for a disadvantaged population with few resources. The author also has a clear sense of her own weaknesses. She admits she sometimes had a “mental block against taking action,” which seemed partly born of wanting to help patients retain their dignity and independence but also a desire to keep her emotional distance in complicated situations. In one case, she admits to feeling a sense of relief when a patient died, since it meant she would no longer have to dedicate so much effort to arranging her care. Through it all, Crane’s passion for helping others is obvious even as she struggles to figure out the best way to do that.
An honest, compassionate look at what it takes to care for some of America’s most vulnerable citizens.