Great Summer Reads for Nurses

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By E’Louise Ondash, RN, contributor 

July 12, 2012 - In another age, June, July and August signaled a time to slow down and stock up on reading material for the beach, mountains or back yard hammock. Though the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer may not be what they once were, you can still set aside a bit of time to get lost in a good book--be it paper or digital.

Ranging from professional guidebooks to funny stories to intriguing medical mysteries, here are a few titles that nurses will want to consider adding to their summer reading list:

A Collection of Nurse Mysteries
Mystery fans will enjoy delving into one of these nurse-sleuth books starring Monika Everhardt, RN, who works as head nurse in the ICU of a fictitious hospital in St. Louis and pals around with B.J., a city police officer.

As she works to unravel some medical mysteries, Assumed Dead and Twice Dead show Everhardt’s character to be “competent and compassionate and not afraid to stand up to administration for her staff and her patients,” says author Eleanor Sullivan, RN, Ph.D., FAAN, former dean of nursing at the University of Kansas.

Most recently, Sullivan has written the first in a new series of historical mysteries, called Cover Her Body: A Singular Village Mystery, set in a strict, religious society in 1830s rural Ohio. A16-year-old girl drowns, but the only person who suspects it wasn’t an accident is a young midwife--the precursor of the nurse--who puts her own life in danger when she tries to find the killer. The second book in the series, Graven Images, is due in 2013.

Becoming Influential: A Guide for Nurses 

In addition to her mysteries, Sullivan offers Becoming Influential, published earlier in 2012.

“It sheds light on never-revealed secrets of success for nurses,” she says.

Designed for staff nurses and nurse managers, this book emphasizes the importance of nurses’ influence in the workplace, and uses real-life examples to show how to enhance your personal skills to solve common problems. Topics include setting goals and making things happen, negotiating for what you want, dealing with difficult people and situations, managing your career, and more.

Sullivan was a widow in her thirties with five children, including a newborn, when she returned to school to become a nurse, and she rose through the ranks to accomplish a number of milestones throughout her career. Her personal success story is reason enough to consider this book.

“Nursing is a fabulous preparation for writing or anything else in life,” she says.  “When I decided to write mystery fiction, I did what I’d done to become a nurse. I took classes, studied, and practiced my craft. Just like in nursing, I’m always learning.”

Bedlam Among the Bedpans: Humor in Nursing 

This classic humor guide, edited by Amy Y. Young of the Wisser Library at New York Institute of Technology, serves up hilarious anecdotes, lists, quotes and editorials by nurses.

Sample: You know you’re a nurse when …passing gas is a good thing; your bladder is full and your stomach is empty; and you wrap presents with IV tape.

Open to any page for a quick laugh--this one is just right for the nurse with a busy schedule.

The Humor of Healing: An Amusing History of American Medicine 

Medicine is a serious business, but there are humorous moments, according to this book by neurosurgeon Donald A. Johnson, M.D., which includes a collection of stories about the early days of medicine.

For instance, the book points out that it once was difficult for med students to get clinical experience, so they would sometime persuade a pregnant woman to let the professor deliver the baby in front of the class. Students pitched in 50 cents each; half went to the woman and half to the hospital. More unusual practices? Just imagine applying cow dung to boils and burns, or giving urine and honey for tuberculosis, sore throats and halitosis.

The humorous anecdotes cover three centuries of medicine, including more bizarre treatments, mishaps and tales of medicine gone wrong.

Culture and Clinical Care 

As the number of minority, immigrant and ethnic populations increase in the United States, nurses must understand how cultural beliefs affect health and health care.  For instance:

  • Why are some gypsies reluctant to eat hospital food?
  • Why do some Navajo Indians prefer to die at home?
  • Why should older African Americans be addressed by their surnames?

These and other issues are explored in Culture and Clinical Care, edited by Suzanne Dibble DNSc, RN, and Juliene G. Lipson RN, Ph.D., FAAN, professors emeriti at the University of California, San Francisco.

Although some nurses are skilled in giving culturally tailored care, they write, “the majority has difficulty with at least some issues and may be uncomfortable in cross-cultural communication.”

Their book features information on 35 ethnic groups, each chapter written by a nurse familiar with the cultural practices. Topics include cultural and ethnic identity; history and migration to the United States; birth, death, reproduction and sexual practices; spiritual and religious beliefs; verbal and non-verbal communication; food preferences; and attitudes about health care, illness, folk remedies, gender issues and disability.

Nursing Ethics in Everyday Practice 

Electronic health records. Religious beliefs. Quality of life. Finite medical resources. Living wills. All of these issues can present ethical dilemmas for nurses.

Connie M. Ulrich, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, associate professor of bioethics and nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, addresses these topics and others in Nursing Ethics in Everyday Practice.

Reviewers say that Ulrich provides an “excellent and long-awaited tool” with easy-to-grasp tips to resolve ethically difficult situations at the bedside, and that her book is helpful for any nurse who wants to learn more about complicated ethical issues.

At Home: A Short History of Private Life 

This book by best-selling author Bill Bryson is neither for nor about nurses, but will be of interest because of the public health issues and the medical care of 300 years ago that he details within the narrative. Using his home in Britain and its domestic artifacts as a jumping-off point, Bryson chronicles how and why we live the way we do and does it in his usual entertaining and often understated humorous way.

Readers won’t soon forget his verbal images of the millions who died as a result of dirty water; how bathing once was believed to cause disease; the verifiable stories about the high intelligence of rats; and London’s make-do sewage system.

Therapeutic Activities for Children and Teens Coping with Health Issues 

The award-winning book was written to assist health professionals provide activities that help children manage the emotional and physical challenges that come with serious illness.

Helping sick children cope is an important role for pediatric nurses, explain authors Judy Rollins, Ph.D, RN, president of Rollins & Associates, Inc., in Washington, D.C., and Robyn Hart, MEd, CCLS, director of child life services at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

“Our objective was to create a practical reference to assist nurses and child life specialists in understanding, and more importantly implementing, family-centered, culturally sensitive, evidence-based, inexpensive activities within the context and challenges of today’s dynamic health care environment.”

The book comes with a CD containing activities, activity templates and easy-to-use patterns that can be customized for patients’ needs.



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