March 15, 2013
Expect to be moved by this anthology of tales from the front line, written by veteran nurses and nurses-in-training. One contributor describes her experiences as a nursing student at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, when the disease was called gay-related immune-deficiency syndrome, particularly her “nurse’s intuition,” that is, knowing when a patient is going to die. “There was a stigma to the work I was doing,” she writes. “But I eventually got to a point where I wasn’t afraid to say, when someone asked what I did, ‘I work with persons who are dying of AIDS.’” Several of the essayists lace their emotional tales with humor. A University of Pennsylvania nursing student records her friends’ reaction to her job: “So you actually cleaned up poop?” A woman who survived Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a teen becomes an oncology nurse. And a male nurse recounts watching a person die for the first time. Essayists note that they’re not supposed to get “too close” to patients, but they do it anyway. It’s easy to love these empathetic people, and their beautifully written stories.