A walk through the wards

Title: Get Well Soon

Author: Kristy Chambers

This story of one woman's nursing career is an entertaining and funny read, due to both the choice of content and the humorous writing style. Looking for satisfying work, Chambers thinks nursing is a good option, but finds it physically more demanding than she'd imagined. Not knowing what kind of nursing she wants to do after general training, she works in a series of different wards, fruitlessly trying to find something interesting that requires less cleaning up of other people's bodily wastes. She starts in the mental health section, dealing with anorexics, followed by maxillofacial (rebuilding faces), neurology and stroke, bone marrow transplants, detox, and then works as a detox nurse in emergency.

Just as it sounds, none of these situations are funny in themselves, far from it, and she can't avoid the gross bodily wastes, but her wit and light touch kept me fully engaged. 'The fact that I was building violent castles in the air centred on beating up cancer patients was a bit of a red flag that night duty and I were not a good fit.'

To support herself while training, she does part-time jobs, including a stint in telemarketing: 'I wondered what the collective noun for them would be. A nuisance of telemarketers seemed most appropriate. And a murder would work too.'

On the break-up of her relationship: 'After a year of living together, cracks like chasms appeared between us, and all the love fell out.'

She finds she prefers nursing to any of the other options available to her, although her feelings about the work remain ambivalent: 'Nursing and I were an arranged marriage, of sorts. Neither one of us was the other's first choice or dream come true…'

Most chapters are structured around individual patients, personalising her daily grind, which brought me close enough to the reality to be very glad indeed that I had not undertaken such a career. It touches on Chambers and her attitudes, but quickly becomes a collection of hospital stories, which left me wanting to know more about her. By covering a broad range of specialities, this highly accessible book provides great insight into the routine work of people we all take for granted will be there when we need them. Nurses put up with the seriously difficult, unclean, unwell public, and even help us, often in spite of ourselves. Thank God for nurses, I say!

Books reviewed are available from the Book Warehouse in Lismore.

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