At age 36 after two children, divorce and remarriage, the author reinvented her life by earning a BS in nursing. This account of her first 11 years in the field is compulsively readable as it details daily life on unnamed hospital wards ranging from sub-acute to psychiatric.
Alice Marlett’s engaging journal describes the typical and constant struggles nurses face with chronic understaffing, scheduling to cut costs, administrative callousness and burnout. Yet none of these issues prevent her from providing sympathetic care for her daily workload of seriously ill and terminal patients. Wound care, blocked IVs, seeping abscesses, askew dialysis ports and incontinence are dealt with matter-of-factly as she also juggles irate or grieving family members, patients with dementia or those in constant pain, and care techs who spend more time on their phones than helping nurses.
Marlett’s observations about hospital procedures and patient care also include easy-to-understand explanations of ailments and medical procedures, such as a patient’s AIDS-related Kaposi’s sarcoma or how a wound-vac works to remove dead tissue and fluids. Despite her many challenges, one thing is clear throughout the swift moving narrative: patients always come first, and ultimately patient stories form the heart and soul of Marlett’s book.
Readers will finish the book with curiosity about Marlett’s personal life. Additionally, the narrative, which begins in 1999, stops abruptly in 2010, as she muses on whether to continue nursing as a case supervisor and clinical instructor. Readers may feel frustrated not knowing the path she took.
The field has changed dramatically since her journal years, thanks to the use of electronic records, mobile medical carts, increased respect for the profession and more. Still, this is a tender, honest, and illuminating read that’s also a rallying cry for others to follow in her footsteps in this admirable profession.
Also available as an ebook.