Although this non-fiction book focuses on four Emergency Room nurses and their personal experiences at various hospitals in an unnamed, large US city, it also includes reflections and anecdotes contributed by many other nurses from all over the world. The meticulous research by the author is evident as statistics and cited material provide a valid snapshot of many issues important to nurses, other healthcare workers, and patients. The voices of the many different types of licensed nurses are heard loud and clear -- LPN, RN, NP, CS, CRNA, DNP with all types of special certifications to add more credentials indicating specialty of practice. Two main points are clear -- nurses mostly love what they do, and they deserve respect and support. Long gone are the days when a nurse dressed in white and wore a cap, stood when a doctor came for rounds, and routinely did as bid without question. Nurses are sentient, compassionate and well-educated practitioners in their own right, doing what they do best, -- provide physical care, give spiritual and emotional support, as well as meticulously assessing, planning, documenting, and evaluating the patient's response and condition at all times. They don't want to be medical doctors, and feel that being a nurse is not a second tier position but one that should be valued on the same level as part of the health care team. When blatant bias against nurses is revealed herein, it's obvious that, although nursing has come a long way since the early days, there is still a long way to go to change perception and treatment of these professionals.
When my family gathers for any occasion, there are among us 4 nurses, 2 medical doctors (one a hospitalist and the other a surgeon) and 2 pharmacists. Everyone in the entire family has grown up in an atmosphere where "work stories" and arguments dominate the conversation as everyone wants to share his or her own point of view in situations that have occurred where each person may have felt that the "others" didn't respond appropriately or give due respect to the title, the work, the need, or the decision. It comes down to this -- each one of us wants to feel that we are equally valued for our area of expertise. That doesn't always happen in my family, and neither does it happen in real life practice. Working on a "team" can sometimes be a game of oneupsmanship or a darned if you do and darned if you don't situation. For example: the doctors may not really want the middle of the night phone calls, but the nurses and pharmacists have to make them whether they want to or not. For all that we each want to provide the best care for every patient, the team situation is often adversarial because it usually boils down to the fact that much of what nurses or pharmacists can do still relies ultimately on a doctor's order (though that is changing). Regardless, each member of the health care team has his or her own role to perform in the complex delivery of effective patient care. Thus, I didn't really care for the "heroes of the hospital" phrase in the title as all members uniquely contribute in their responsibilities.
I've been a Registered Nurse for 37 years and have practiced in many different settings in hospitals, clinics, EMS, education, publishing, and, now as a school nurse. I can't think of another career that provides so many different avenues for change and self-fulfillment from one basic degree. As one quote puts it, "nursing isn't just a job -- it's who I am." I could relate to almost every scenario presented in this book, and only wish that it had followed the stories of nurses from other departments besides the ER. I laughed when I read that some ER nurses consider themselves the "rock stars" of nursing -- that's only their opinion as I'd bet that many other specialty nurses feel that same way about their own (ICU and OR nurses to name two) -- and, really, how is that label even determined? Regardless, this book reminded me again of why I stayed in nursing and I hope that the coming generation of nurses will be just as satisfied as I have been in my chosen vocation.
I'll be recommending this book to everyone as it offers insight into a profession that will be much in demand as baby boomers age and health care initiatives change how health care is provided -- and by whom. I'd like to thank Workman Publishing and Edelweiss for an ARC digital copy of this book for review.