Intensive Care

More Poetry and Prose by Nurses
edited by Cortney Davis and Judy Schaefer

This was among a box of books my sister once gave to me (she\’s a nurse). It\’s a collection of poetry, short stories and a few essays written from personal experiences. (There\’s a prior volume called Between the Heartbeats). As I\’m not terribly keen on poetry, and the book has more than twenty authors, this was a rather uneven read for me. Some pieces just didn\’t speak to me at all, or were difficult for me to connect to. Others were downright disturbing, or very very sad. Especially of innocent people suffering, stricken by illness or worse injured by outright cruelty. The stories and poems span a wide range of nursing experiences- from students practicing their technique to men or women years into the job, or others looking back after a long career. There are nurses in the usual hospital setting I would expect, but also many stories from remote areas in poor countries, from refugee camps, from the front lines in battle zones. There are stories of frustration and burnout, of exhaustion and misunderstandings. And also those of tenderness, of compassion and deep caring. Quite a few tell of a particular patient or experience that had a profound impact on an individual nurse. I skimmed over a few, puzzled over others, but found many resonating with sensitivity or tense with discomfort, letting me glimpse what it\’s like to do such work.

Several that really struck me: \”The Color of Blood\” by Victoria May Collett- how a scrub nurse experiences working alongside a renowned heart surgeon- the thrill and stress and strain. \”Water Story\” a poem by Cortney Davis. \”We Do Abortions Here\” by Sallie Tisdale- the subject is exactly that. And these lines from \”What Nurses Do: the Marriage of Suffering and Healing\”:  The rhythm of a heart repeats itself like vows / in a chapel full of light, but we are gathered / here because this man\’s heart choked after forty years /  . . . and now something as old as love / must be the pencil that helps the heart write / its good-byes across our screen.

Rating: 3/5                           269 pages, 2003

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