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The NursesReview - The Nurses
A Year of Secrets, Drama, and Miracles with the Heroes of the Hospital
by Alexandra Robbins
Hachette Audio, 2016
Review by Christian Perring
Jun 7th 2016 (Volume 20, Issue 23)

In The Nurses, Alexandra Robbins promises to tell "what it is really like to be a nurse" with this disguised narrative of four nurses in an unnamed US city. Of course, that's an impossible task, but her combination of personal drama and explanation of the pressures on nurses, with its resulting impact on health care, does make for a good read. She features four women, weaving their different stories along with commentary about modern health care and particular episodes of patients and doctors. This is Robbins' sixth book and she is a proficient writer, although the prose lacks sparkle. She emphasizes how nurses do a lot of the emotional work in interaction with patients, while doctors visit patients briefly just once a day. She shows how nurses have difficult lives subject to verbal abuse and violence from patients and their family members, bullying and harassment from doctors and other nurses, and increasing pressures from hospitals to work bad hours, pay for their uniforms, and make other sacrifices that the doctors were not expected to make. There's also the "Nurse Jackie" problem: the easy availability of opioid medication puts nurses at higher risk to addiction, and this is a major issue in the profession. On the other hand, Robbins suggests that nurses are often very dedicated to their work and caring for patients, and this is what keeps them in the profession.  Often Robbins is at her best when she addresses the larger issues such as the recent moves in government regulation to tie the funding for hospitals to customer satisfaction. Robbins explains that this means that hospitals will now focus on pleasing patients rather than giving them the best health care, which can often mean giving patients advice they don't want to hear. The Nurses could be a valuable resource for those interested in going into the health care profession, as a way to learn more about the everyday realities of the job. Anyone who may end up in hospital might also benefit from the book to better understand how to relate to those who will be doing most of the care for them.

Robbins herself reads the unabridged audiobook. It's a perfectly adequate performance -- a little less polished than you might get from a professional reader, but it is easy to listen to it.

 

© 2016 Christian Perring

 

Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York

 


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