#1 INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER • A moving, lyrical, beautifully-written portrait of a nurse and the lives she has touched
Christie Watson spent twenty years as a nurse, and in this intimate, poignant, and remarkably powerful book, she opens the doors of the hospital and shares its secrets. She takes us by her side down hospital corridors to visit the wards and meet her unforgettable patients.
In the neonatal unit, premature babies fight for their lives, hovering at the very edge of survival, like tiny Emmanuel, wrapped up in a sandwich bag. On the cancer wards, the nurses administer chemotherapy and, long after the medicine stops working, something more important--which Watson learns to recognize when her own father is dying of cancer. In the pediatric intensive care unit, the nurses wash the hair of a little girl to remove the smell of smoke from the house fire. The emergency room is overcrowded as ever, with waves of alcohol and drug addicted patients as well as patients like Betty, a widow suffering chest pain, frail and alone. And the stories of the geriatric ward--Gladys and older patients like her--show the plight of the most vulnerable members of our society.
Through the smallest of actions, nurses provide vital care and kindness. All of us will experience illness in our lifetime, and we will all depend on the support and dignity that nurses offer us; yet the women and men who form the vanguard of our health care remain unsung. In this age of fear, hate, and division, Christie Watson has written a book that reminds us of all that we share, and of the urgency of compassion.
Novelist Watson (Where Women Are Kings) portrays the constant chaos and deep sense of purpose she experienced while training to be and working as a nurse in England in this rewarding memoir. "Each hospital is a country, unique and separate, with an infrastructure and philosophy different from the next one," yet she shows the "language of kindness" to be a universal one among nurses. In descriptions of working on the mental health ward for the first time, of first assisting at a birth, and of carefully extricating a premature infant "from his bed of wires" to cuddle with his mother, whom he stares at "for the longest time without blinking." There's not a linear personal story to this book. It zigzags through the different wards she works in and the types of nursing she does, touches on nursing theorists, and moves back and forth in time as she passes through different life phases. The result is less conventional memoir than appreciation of a profession. "Somewhere between science and art," nursing "is all about the smallest details, and understanding how they make the biggest difference," Watson observes. Her recollections of inhabiting this in-between space are revealing and will be especially resonant for people who work in health care. Correction: An earlier version of this review misspelled the author's first name and incorrectly stated the narrative took place in the 1990s.
The Language of Kindness
Has some interesting research about the philosophy of nursing and wonderful insights into this career. Christie Watson is wise beyond her years and writes well. You will not regret reading her book.