E.R. NURSES

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In this follow-up to the similarly structured Walk in My Combat Boots, Patterson and Eversmann present brief but meaningful first-person narratives that illustrate the true realities of nursing “at the center of it all.” Split into sections representing their clinical shifts, the contributors vary by location, gender, and care experience. The authors open with a harrowing narrative deep dive within the “horrific” first wave of Covid-19 in which four infected patients perished during one nurse’s shift. Her closing sentiments are echoed by many throughout the book: “My years in nursing have taught me resiliency.” Another common theme is the chaotic frenzy of emergency departments. One contributor calls her Detroit hospital, which plays host to a barrage of extreme situations, the “Wild West of nursing,” while another recalls a visit by Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who had just begun his groundbreaking work in euthanasia. Others remember purposefully violating hospital policy to hold a patient’s hand or allow a wife to bring a dying husband’s dog to the ICU. The book is packed with gut-wrenching scenes and a kaleidoscope of emotions. In one heartbreaking scene, a terrified Covid patient, suffering from “guppy breathing,” is met by fully masked and gowned nurses, who later note how the pandemic has caused “a major shift in medical treatment. The human touch is almost gone.” There are happy outcomes, trivial clinical missteps, cantankerous patients (says one nurse, “certain patients are just dicks”), and situations so stressful and bizarre that they can’t help but elicit exasperated laughter. These readable bite-sized snippets represent a significant caregiver demographic of women and men who exhibit the labor-intensive focus, compassion, dedication, and passion necessary to be an emergency nurse. From the heartfelt to the tragic, this book displays the nursing profession in all its unsung glory.

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