The Nurses: A Year with the Heroes Behind the Hospital Curtain

Alexandra Robbins. Workman, $24.95 (369p) ISBN 978-0-7611-7171-3

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. [em](May) [/em]