Monday 9 June 2014

Review - A Nurse's Story by Tilda Shalof

A Nurse's StoryA Nurse's Story by Tilda Shalof
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 6 days

Publisher - Emblem Editions

pages - 368

Blurb from Goodreads

The team of nurses that Tilda Shalof found herself working with in the intensive care unit (ICU) of a big-city hospital was known as “Laura’s Line.” They were a bit wild: smart, funny, disrespectful of authority, but also caring and incredibly committed to their jobs. Laura set the tone with her quick remarks. Frances, from Newfoundland, was famous for her improvised recipes. Justine, the union rep, wore t-shirts emblazoned with defiant slogans, like “Nurses Care But It’s Not in the Budget.” Shalof was the one who had been to university. The others accused her of being “sooo sensitive.”

They depended upon one another. Working in the ICU was both emotionally grueling and physically exhausting. Many patients, quite simply, were dying, and the staff strove mightily to prolong their lives. With their skill, dedication, and the resources of modern science, they sometimes were almost too successful. Doctors and nurses alike wondered if what they did for terminally-ill patients was not, in some cases, too extreme. A number of patients were admitted when it was too late even for heroic measures. A boy struck down by a cerebral aneurysm in the middle of a little-league hockey game. A woman rescued – too late – from a burning house. It all took its toll on the staff.

And yet, on good days, they thrived on what they did. Shalof describes a colleague who is managing a “crashing” patient: “I looked at her. Nicky was flushed with excitement. She was doing five different things at the same time, planning ahead for another five. She was totally focused, in her element, in control, completely at home with the chaos. There was a huge smile on her face. Nurses like to fix things. If they can.”

Shalof, a veteran ICU nurse, reveals what it is really like to work behind the closed hospital curtains. The drama, the sardonic humour, the grinding workload, the cheerful camaraderie, the big issues and the small, all are brought vividly to life in this remarkable book.

My Review

Tilda Shalof tells us her story of her time working in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) from starting out to years later as an experienced ICU nurse. We are introduced to some of the people she works with, her team of nurses, doctors, families, patients and the things that have brought them into the unit.

From the perspective of someone who works in the health care sector I think it will be an interesting read to see how this particular unit runs, the situations they face and how they deal with it. To the average person who has no association to this kind of work I think it is an eye opener to see what a shift can entail for a nurse.

The story is certainly interesting although there was a few parts I inwardly shuddered at. For example when Tilda refers to a patient as something other than human (creature may have been the word), whether she felt that or not, as a professional caring for a vulnerable individual I just felt it was disrespectful and very wrong. Highlighting some of the things the nurses say to cope with the horrific things they have to see and carry on from I think could have also been left out or watered down. Again professionals within that type of work appreciate that often humor is the only way to survive some of the horrors they face, however to someone who has only ever lost a loved one in a hospital they will be upset I think by some of the things written. Some of the tales of the story are amazing to think what people can come through, how far medicine and medical intervention can do and whether it should be done. It certainly makes you think and wonder how things would be if you were in the situations that come up within the book.

It is a good paced book and is certainly an interesting read, I'm not sure I would rush out to buy something else she has written but I would read it if I came across it, 3/5 for me this time.

View all my reviews


  1. This sounds like an interesting read. I understand about the humor that comes with jobs like that--we have our own where I work too. A gallow's sort of humor. I don't think those on the outside would much appreciate it.

  2. The setting for this one is indeed fascinating. I would think that I would learn a lot, both about people and about medicine from this one. Sounds like you were a bit lukewarm about it however.

    The demeaning labeling of a patient is indeed a little troubling.

  3. Definitely an interesting topic and I enjoyed your honest review Lainy.

  4. This does sound thought provoking. It's too bad some of it disappointed, like with Tilda's comments about patients.

  5. I worked as an auxiliary nurse for a short time, what an eye opener that was! I’ve never worked so hard in all my life. Some of the patients were lovely others weren’t and the same can be said for the nurses. A difficult job and one that I wouldn’t ever want to do again. I probably wouldn’t have selected this book, but now you’ve told us about it, I want to read it.
    Have a good weekend. Barbara


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