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Matron on Call

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Title: Matron on Call

Author: Joan Woodcock

Publisher: Headline Publishing Group 2012

Reviewer: Jenni Middleton, editor, Nursing Times

What was it like?

The nurse who started work in 1960s shares her stories – drawing together anecdotes from her time working in a busy Manchester hospital and collating them into one fictional nightshift, detailed hour by hour. It’s witty, sad, tragic and melancholy – but one can not fail to be impressed by the dedication and skill of the nurses at the heart of this book.


What were the highlights? 

The story is beautifully told – with real empathy and humour. The work really shows how important the relationship is between nurses battling a busy caseload, but also between all hospital staff – porters, consultants as well as the local police. There’s a real sense of camaraderie between the colleagues mentioned, and she paints a picture of what it’s like to work on new year’s eve that will be of interest to those who have done it, or those who have spent time in casualty on December 31.

I particularly enjoyed the funny stories of those who had indulged in too much alcohol on this night in question – and seeing how the nurses handled their sometimes bizarre requests.

Strengths and weaknesses?

The book is funny and will definitely strike a chord for those nurses who have worked in an A&E or a walk-in centre on new year’s eve. It tells the tales of a man who waited for hours just to request that his tattoo was removed, while cases of overdoses are also handled with sympathy and sincerity.

You can’t help but enjoy – hardworking, dedicated, caring and yet firm when patients try and steal or jump the queue. She’s an excellent role model for nurses.

Who should read it?

If you weren’t around in the 1960s, don’t be put off by the tagline on the cover – “more stories from a 1960s NHS nurse” because the book is very much based around the author’s account of one shift on new year’s eve in the 1980s. So if you’re a graduate of the 1960s or the 1980s or any time in-between or since, you’ll get something out of this book. It will be particularly of interest to those who have worked in A&E and walk-in centres – any nurse who has had to be public facing will raise a smile at the contents of this book.

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