Strengths: Funny and honest.
Weaknesses: Some might find parts a little icky if they’re squeamish.
Why I read it: Saw it in a shop, read a page and couldn’t stop laughing.
Publisher: University of Queensland Press
Rating: 8 out of 10
I first noticed this book as a Goodreads giveaway. By now, you’ve probably realised that I quite enjoy reading about the highs and lows of hospital life in a humourous fashion (e.g. the fantastic Max Pemberton and the delightfully grumpy Nick Edwards). This book was a little different to my previous hospital reads – one, it was written by a nurse and two, it was Australian. Anyway, I didn’t win the giveaway but spotted it in an ABC shop soon after. Idly flicking through the pages, I laughed out loud several times (not really the done thing to do in the suburb I was in) and promptly bought it.
I was reading another book at the time, but I picked up this book on the couch and didn’t get up until I’d read nearly half of it. Chambers has a natural talent – for seeing the humour in every situation, then describing it in words. She also managed to make normally break-your-heart wards, such as bone marrow transplant (a process done in some blood cancers) have some funny moments. This type of ward usually has very sick patients, but Chambers brings out the light-hearted. She also applies this style to psychiatry and drug and alcohol liaison in the emergency department (probably one of the most challenging roles ever).
You might be thinking that Chambers is only telling us the funny stuff – that’s absolutely not true. When I wasn’t crying with laughter, I was sniffling at the plight of some of the patients – the transplant patient who has no white cells left to fight injection, the man losing everything due to alcohol or the shocking sadness of a sudden death. She really doesn’t pull any punches – there are harsh, cruel reality lessons in the hospital wards too.
I read this over just a couple of days – unusual for me in the middle of the working week. I didn’t find it squeamish, but those who don’t come across blood/guts/excrement regularly may squirm a little. You’ll know when it’s time not to be eating while reading. Some others have commented that they didn’t find this book funny – perhaps it’s because some of the humour can be rather black (and believe me, that’s sometimes the perfect medicine in this kind of life). Even if you don’t find it funny, it’s a good experience of life as a young nurse.
I also enjoyed this book because it deals with Chambers’ uncertainties about nursing and whether it’s the career for her. I think everyone has these doubts at times, and it’s always nice to know that someone else has the same problem. I’d love to know what Chambers is doing now – is she still nursing or trying something completely different? She certainly has a talent for writing!