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5 great books to make you a better nurse


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Yeah, yeah, I know. Who has the time to read right? I usually find my time to read on my vacation. In fact that’s all I do on vacation. I ‘unplug’ from the digital world and I arm myself with 3-5 books that I read on my week of vacation (I’ve been known to read more than that).

If you’re like me, books and your choices of content can be equal parts boring and intriguing. As a nurse I think we need a healthy balance in our lives. We give all our blood, sweat and tears for our profession on a daily basis. The following books I suggest are what I call balance. A balance between good honest working environment career development education and a fine taste of nursing comic-relief, mixed in with some metaphysical real-life thought-provoking navigational skills.

Here are the 5 best books to read for a nurse:

1. Your 1st Year As A Nurse – Donna Cardillo, RN

I received this book as a new grad. My first thoughts were, serisously? I just finished school?! Why would I want to read ANOTHER book?? This book is for the new grad and the seasoned nurse alike. A great resource to help any staff nurse better understand the wants, needs and expectations of what being a nurse requires. Filled with real-life stories, suggestions on interpersonal and professional networking, as well as how to properly deal with expect those ‘bad days.’ I truly think every nurse should visit, then revisit this book anytime they feel like they are losing a grip, getting burned out, or just need to know you are not alone.

2. Bedlam Among the Bedpans | Humor in Nursing – Amy Y. Young

This is the comic relief I was talking about. Ever have a bad day? Ever need a good ‘nursing humor’ laugh (you know – the kind of humor only a nurse could appreciate)? How about just bonding over the commonalities between nurses, or the shared humor amongst specific areas of nursing (ED, OR, ICU, Med-surg, etc)? This book is for you. What’s also great is the format of the book. It comes in short stories, as well as a detailed index that helps if you’re pressed for time, or are looking for something specific to laugh about.

3. Who Moved My Cheese? – Spencer Johnson, M.D.

OK. OK. This is NOT about mice. Well, maybe indirectly. This book is about change. Change? What’s that? Nurses have no idea what change is right? I mean we still wear the white cap and skirt right? We still have all of our IV medications dripping out of a glass bottle right? We still have to count drops when infusing IV medication right? *UH-hum* (clearing my throat) We Nurses are ALL about change! This book discusses the differences in how one deals with change. I must tell you, once you read this you can and will envision someone you work with or know to be one of the 4 characters in this book. I promise you. After you read this book, you will forever be changed on ..err.. Uhh Change. Remember – change is the only constant thing in our profession.

4. The Last Lecture – Randy Pausch

This amazing man was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. This book is full of excerpts from his ‘Last Lecture’ at the university titled: “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”. If you have EVER met an obstacle on your way to a goal – ANY goal. This book is for you. This guy did not know how to give up, and even when faced with the most dire of situations, he remained poised, positive and full of energy. Take lessons from this man and how he lead his life. He sadly passed away, but left an astounding legacy that truly enriches the lives of everyone around it.

5. Always Looking Up | The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist – Michael J. Fox

Ever had a bad day? Ever think you got it bad? Ever think things are so bad that you just want to give up, give in, or heck just maybe try tomorrow? I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t know something about this amazing actor turned activist and inspirer. This book is a brief synopsis of his journey through Parkinson’s disease and the gifts it has brought him. Yes, you read that right – the gifts it has brought him.

OK, so I must confess. I’m a huge believer in the human condition. These list of books show you that I am all about not giving up on what you want, not giving in to the hype of discontent, and honestly looking in the mirror for all your answers. As a nurse we see some of the most wonderful and most devastating things life can offer, we are a truly blessed bunch of professionals.  My hope is that maybe one of these books can help you navigate through that rip-roaring rollercoaster of life in and out of work.

Here are some other ‘good stuff’ books I highly recommend if you have the time or the inclination:

A complaint free world – Will Bowen : learn how to complaint free. Yes, it is possible.

What it takes to be #1 – Vince Lombardi, Jr. : learn from the best, on how to be the best.

Way of the peaceful warrior – Dan Millman : what really is happiness? Are you sure about your answer?

Anything written by Mitch Albom: All his books say something about our priorities in life. Be sure yours isn’t work.

  • ‘For one more day’
  • ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’
  • ‘The five people you meet in heaven’

Anything written by Malcolm Gladwell: these are just things that make you go hmm about our society.

  • ‘Blink’
  • ‘The Tipping Point’
  • ‘Outliers’

OK. OK. I’m done. I could really go on with even more books that I find so enlightening and entertaining. Did I miss any, nurses?

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