The Nurses: A Year of Secrets, Drama, and Miracles with the Heroes of the Hospital

The Nurses: A Year of Secrets, Drama, and Miracles with the Heroes of the Hospital

4.0 22
by Alexandra Robbins

See All Formats & Editions

Nursing is more than a career; it is a calling, and one of the most important, fascinating, and dangerous professions in the world. As the frontline responders battling traumas, illnesses, and aggression from surprising sources, nurses are remarkable. Yet contemporary literature largely neglects them.

In THE NURSES, New York Times


Nursing is more than a career; it is a calling, and one of the most important, fascinating, and dangerous professions in the world. As the frontline responders battling traumas, illnesses, and aggression from surprising sources, nurses are remarkable. Yet contemporary literature largely neglects them.

In THE NURSES, New York Times bestselling author and award-winning journalist Alexandra Robbins peers behind the staff-only door to write a lively, fast-paced story and a riveting work of investigative journalism. Robbins followed real-life nurses in four hospitals and interviewed hundreds of others in a captivating book filled with joy and violence, miracles and heartbreak, dark humor and narrow victories, gripping drama and unsung heroism.

Alexandra Robbins creates sympathetic, engaging characters while diving deep into their world of controlled chaos—the hazing (“nurses eat their young”); sex (not exactly like on TV, but it happens more often than you think); painkiller addiction (disproportionately a problem among the best and brightest); and bullying (by doctors, patients, and others). The result is a page-turner possessing all the twists and turns of a brilliantly told narrative—and a shocking, unvarnished examination of our healthcare system.
THE NURSES is a must-read both for the general public, who will learn hospital secrets that could save their own or a loved one’s life, and for nurses, who will proudly share the book as a rallying cry for support and celebration.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Journalist Robbins (Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities) trains her sights on the adrenaline-infused world of emergency nursing, offering a disturbing snapshot of the barriers imposed on healthcare providers by colleagues, myopic bosses, and a changing healthcare system. She follows four ER nurses at four hospitals where patients range from the wealthy and privileged to the down and out, aiming to represent the varied perspectives of America’s 3.5 million nurses. During the book’s year-long time line, Molly quits her full-time hospital job to become an agency nurse while also beginning fertility treatments; Lara battles a crumbling marriage and a history of drug abuse; Sam, a novice, grows into a confident practitioner; and unpopular Juliette, despite a lack of encouragement from fellow nurses, saves lives while advancing her career. To illustrate the realities of nursing, Robbins addresses government surveys that “steer focus away from patient health,” a nursing “code of silence” that helps cover up addiction in their ranks, bullying, and the mix of factors that leads to medication errors. The “nurse confessions” section also dishes eye-opening material to the uninitiated. Robbins uses these four women’s trials and triumphs to show how the nursing profession itself remains as overwhelming as a busy ER. (May)
From the Publisher
"A funny, intimate & often jaw-dropping account of life behind the scenes.." —People

"...a detailed, sympathetic, and eye-opening portrait of how nurses work, deal with stresses, and fulfill their mission of serving patients...An insightful perspective on the realities of crucial health care providers." —Kirkus Reviews

"After interviewing hundreds, Robbins narrowed her focus to the personal narratives of four nurses.... Their stories are compelling in every way."  —Bookpage

"...dishes eye-opening material." —Publishers Weekly

"Anyone who has ever set foot in a hospital—or might in the future—would do well to read this book. With page-turning prose, Robbins pulls back the curtain on a world rife with joy and challenge. It's brutally honest, emotional, and most of all, a paean to nurses—the people who help us live, die, and survive every day." — Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out

"Nurses are the unseen warriors of the hospital system, part of a 'secret club' of heroes with its own rules and codes. They're also strong-willed, flawed human beings made of flesh and (unafraid of) blood, rendered here in stunning detail. This fascinating and compulsively readable book even has a few tricks that could save your life. First tip: Don't get sick in July."  — Mickey Rapkin, author of Pitch Perfect

"A fascinating and somewhat alarming examination of the contemporary nursing profession...Robbins not only shows, she tells in this revealing expose of the modern day state of nursing. It is an eye-opener not to be missed.” —EarlyWord

"Readers... will find themselves guided by an excellent stylist and a first-rate mind." —Houston Chronicle
“Alexandra Robbins writes reality TV in book form.” —New Jersey Star-Ledger

"A rich, fast-paced book about heroic, neglected professionals; editor's recommendation." —Barnes and Noble

“The Nurses' is exciting and honest, from admission to release. Robbins…busts myths, shows the inner workings of emergency rooms, offers golden advice, and explains behind-the-scenes events and why nurses deserve way more kudos than they get.”  —The Daily News

"...dramatic and riveting...Robbins has done an excellent job of bringing the world of nurses to life." —The Examiner

Kirkus Reviews
An intimate look at the lives of nurses.Journalist Robbins (The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School, 2011, etc.) has made a career digging into the secrets of sorority sisters, geeks, overachieving children, and the exclusive Ivy League club known as Skull and Bones. Here, she investigates nursing, offering a detailed, sympathetic, and eye-opening portrait of how nurses work, deal with stresses, and fulfill their mission of serving patients. Drawing from hundreds of interviews and undercover hospital observations, Robbins focuses on four ER nurses who represent a cross section of the profession: Sam, just starting her career at a teaching hospital that happens to be "a destination of choice" for the homeless and drug addicts; the more experienced Molly, who works at a suburban hospital just bought by a corporation with its eye on the bottom line; her colleague Juliette, shunned by a clique of nurses; and Lara, working at an overwhelmed inner-city hospital, who succumbs to the temptation of easy access to narcotics. Caring for patients is stressful in itself, but the nurses' jobs, Robbins notes, are made more difficult by many abuses: doctors who intimidate nurses into keeping silent when they witness physicians' mistakes; bullying by other nurses, more prevalent than bullying from doctors; verbal—and sometimes physical—abuse by patients or their families; lack of support or understanding for nurses' distress when a patient dies; and severe overwork. "For twelve to fourteen hours at a time," the author writes, "they must demonstrate physical and emotional stamina, alert intelligence, and mental composure" no matter what the circumstances. Cuts in nursing staff have led to impossible patient loads and long hours with no time to eat or briefly rest. Robbins ends the book with a chapter on advice for hospitals, the public, and aspiring and experienced nurses, with suggestions for ameliorating some problems. An insightful perspective on the realities of crucial health care providers.

Product Details

Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt


Four hospitals stand within a fifty-mile radius of a major American city. On the surface, they are as different from one another as fairy-tale sisters.

Pines Memorial Hospital is a pleasant-looking cream-colored building with a sixteen-story tower and broad, welcoming windows overlooking a quiet tree-lined suburban avenue. After decades of independence, the neighborhood’s favorite hospital was bought out by Westnorth, a large healthcare corporation, which is slowly diluting the local flavor. With 190 beds, Pines Memorial serves a highly educated, wealthy population with a large percentage of academics, retirees, and nursing home residents. Because it is close to a major highway, Pines’ emergency room, which has approximately 60,000 visits per year, often treats victims of major-impact car accidents. Nurses joke that the hospital should be called Highway Memorial, because the risks of the highway are far more relevant to the medical staff than the quiet red pine forests outside of town.

Several miles away, South General Hospital occupies a mostly gray edifice curved away from the road, as if to shield its inhabitants from the gang violence that occurs frequently nearby. The Level-1 trauma center— designated as such because it has the resources to treat every stage of injury, from prevention through rehabilitation—has 300 beds to serve one of the most indigent areas outside the city. South General’s ER sees 95,000 ER patients annually. The reputation of “The South” is like that of the proverbial kid from the wrong side of the tracks, hoping to keep up with her peers, but unable to overcome the disadvantages of living on the poverty-stricken south side of town.

Forty-five minutes west, in a peaceful corner of the city, Academy Hospital, proud and prestigious, inhabits several white-pillared, brick structures that wind around courtyards and patios, reflecting the storied architecture of its surrounding university campus. With approximately 425 beds, Academy treats a ritzy demographic of young and middle-aged residents in the nearby million-dollar homes and the students at the elite university. The Academy ER treats fewer than 45,000 patients per year, partly because it simply does not have the building space to expand its emergency department walls.

And Citycenter Medical, a longtime teaching hospital, is split between two dusty beige high-rises, perhaps representative of its dual personalities: a stalwart institution with top-notch doctors and an ER so poorly managed it is considered dangerous by many of its own staff. A 390-bed Level-1 trauma center, Citycenter has an emergency department that is crumbling beneath the weight of the 85,000 annual patients it does not have enough nursing staff to treat properly. While Pines Memorial treats more blunt force, multisystem traumas because of the car accidents, Citycenter’s traumas are typically isolated injuries, such as gunshot wounds. Easily reached by public transportation and in the heart of a densely populated city, Citycenter is a destination of choice for homeless people, drug-seeking addicts, and the uninsured.

In each of these disparate institutions, pale blue curtains shroud pods of frightened people. In each, seasoned healers perform routine procedures and medical feats behind bleached sterile walls. And in each, tracking invisible undercurrents through hallway mazes, nurses connect doctors to patients, carrying out copious orders in synchronized steps, entwining themselves intimately in convalescents’ lives.

Meet the Author

Alexandra Robbins, winner of the prestigious 2014 John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest Magazine Journalism, is the author of four New York Times bestsellers, including Pledged and The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth. She has written for The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The New York Times, and other publications, and has appeared on numerous television shows from 60 Minutes to The Colbert Report.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

The Nurses: A Year of Secrets, Drama, and Miracles with the Heroes of the Hospital 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed getting to know Lara, Molly, Juliette, and Sam, the nurses who guide us through a world that's incredibly more complex than I realized. Following their stories made this book a very fast read. I finished it in one day! They really opened my eyes to the behind-the-scenes goings on of hospital life. The doctor-nurse politics, patient behavior and medical procedures made this seem like a TV show, which was fun to read. But most of all, I want to meet those four nurses and thank them for working so hard despite their challenges
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
THE NURSES is the best book I have read in years. It is both informative and enjoyable. It reads like a engaging novel. But I learned so much about nurses, doctors, and hospitals. This is a must-read for health professionals, anyone who knows health professionals.and anyone who may end up being a hospital patient. I would give this book more than five stars if I could.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don’t even know any nurses, but I couldn't tear myself away from “The Nurses.” The storyline was unquestionably riveting. I also learned a great deal about hospitals and was surprised by many items. Nurses are patients’ greatest advocates and too many people forget that. It was refreshing to get an education in these important matters -- and to be thoroughly entertained along the way.
Jennifer_Prather More than 1 year ago
I couldn't tear myself away from this book. Fast read, engaging characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am an avid nonfiction reader.  To me, there's nothing better that a nonfiction book that doesn't read like one.  I bought this book because it  is ranked so high on the Washington Post bestseller list.  I was not disappointed.  I recommend this book to anyone who likes to learn about important subjects that are presented  in an engrossing manner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have been in health care for 41 years, an RN since 1983 and an NP since 1997. This book reflects the reality of health care today. I wish every hospital administrator would read it and see how decisions without nursing input affect patient care.
M-Goddart More than 1 year ago
What an exceptional book! I didn’t know much about nurses before this book other than that they work with doctors and take your temperature and blood pressure. This is amazing insight into the heroic world they work in and the personal battles that go unseen. This is an AMAZING book. I highly recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was so bumbed when i thought i had another 50 pagges and it was over. Really enjoyed reading about the lives of thosefour personal nurses Good book and i hope it changes nursing in some hospital.
Vicki Halucha More than 1 year ago
As an RN for 30 yrs, and many of them as a nursing administrator, I couldn't even finish this book. What a bunch of lies! While nursing is definitely a high-pressure occupation, this book makes it sound like we are all walking time bombs. Short staffing is a real problem in many facilities, but it happens for a variety of reasons besides money. For many years, there just weren't enough nurses to go around. Many hospitals spent fortunes, even to going to other countries like England and the Philippines, to recruit the staff they needed. There are not vials of narcotics lying around unattended for the taking, as portrayed here. I felt like the author pulled out only the research information that suited her literary needs. There will always be immature, short-sighted workers in any field who want to view everything from a negative viewpoint, but that doesn't make it the truth. I was excited when I read about this book, now I wish I could get my money back.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was pretty good at showing some of the struggles faced by nurses in our current hospital environment. Sometimes it got a little annoying with whining about cliques and feeling left out. There are enough struggles with the job that some of that could have been left out. Overall it was a good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The writing is a little immature and reads somewhat like a tabloid article. The majority of the nurses come across as whiny and mean spirited. I was left wondering why they chose this profession when so many of the patients and staff irritate them. It was very disconcerting to know how much they discuss the patients in negative manner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this book...a must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. As a nurse, i was glad to see that im not alone in my concerns as to administration members with NO clinical experience (CFOs) making clinical judgements...It also was accurate and interesting in describing the intricacies of working in the field, such as balancing relationships with staff and patients. Enjoyable book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Since I'm not a nurse, but have been a patient at various times, I thought this book would give me a different perspective on what goes on  in a hospital. The book was so riveting that I couldn't put it down. The  back stories of the 4 main characters are riveting and eye opening.  Nurses truly are the unsung heroes in the hospital. This book is well  worth the read, not only for those in the medical profession, but for everyone else as well. Thank you, Ms. Robbins, for educating us.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting read all in all but slow and boring during parts. Hard to believe that nurses have such a huge bullying problem. Disconcerting since sick and hurt people have to rely on them, bullying shows low character. What keeps them from turning on patients?
Kathy Fenner More than 1 year ago
I particularly enjoyed this book. After a serious accident in 2011, I have been under constant medical care. Everyone of my "angels of mercy" have been so skilled and caring while helping me to recover from my injuries. To be able to see the inside lives of nurses makes me appreciate all of the healthcare professionals even more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You know what the author was great at? Rambling off statistics from studies other people put together. The nurses profiled come across as petty, defensive, and immature. What an awful book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't finish it.As a nurse it seemed like a term paper trying to be a novel.Sorry i actually paid for it.