Title: Nurse! Nurse! A student nurse’s story
Author: Jimmy Frazier
Publisher: Constable, 2011
Reviewer: Jenni Middleton, editor, Nursing Times, EMAP
What was it like?
I’ve read quite a few books about what life is like for a nurse, but this is one of the most funny, poignant (and from what I’ve been told by nurses and student nurses) accurate portrayals of life pre-registration.
Jimmy Frazier is a pseudonym but as the book’s omniscient central character, he is compelling, charming and empathetic. After getting into trouble as a youngster, he is volunteered to work on a ward, which he swears puts him off a healthcare profession, for life. However, a few years later, as a thirty something, he decides to change his life and go into nursing. Cue lots of unsupportive “Florence” and “Angel” gags from his mates, who look down on his “less than manly” choice of vocation. The book charts the highs and lows of studying to be a nurse with uncanny realism. The characterisation of the lecturers and mentors is brilliantly observed – the hard as nails tutor who turns out to be quite an empathetic coach when the chips are down during practical exam time; the mouthy nurse so passionate about her profession she will stand up to any doctor, and the sign-off mentor who has transformed the lives of those she has worked with. “Super Nurse “ is a joy to behold for both the author and the reader. And Frazier has cleverly interwoven characters who inspire, add comic value or a gritty injection of realism.
While the book touches on many of the issues in nursing today – the dearth of male nurses in anything other than mental health disciplines, the move to an all-graduate profession, the delicate relationship between doctors and nurses and nurse prescribing – it feels more like a novel than a factual account – thanks to the charming interjections about Jimmy’s love life and his friendships with those people on the course. As such it’s an easy read, with a lovely dose of mental images – my favourite being when he cares for a patient on a mental ward whom he tells his friends “makes Hannibal Lecter look like a vegan”.
What were the highlights?
This is a beautifully constructed book. It works hard to portray the realism of being a nurse – from the anxieties around performing your first depot injection to the OCSE exams and the fear of your first physical assault at the hands of an angry patient. It’s never trite, never overplayed and always humorous and heartfelt.
Strengths & weaknesses
The friendships that Jimmy has forged during his time as a student nurse illustrate how difficult students from different cultures and backgrounds can find the transition to nursing. One of the biggest points that the author makes is how enormous the churn is in nursing, and through the trials of his friends, you can understand why. The ending of this book is also a surprise – and something that made me a little sad. But I don’t want to spoil it for you.
Who should read it?
This is a fantastic companion for any student nurse. There’s a great deal of wisdom from the author, which I am sure would inspire the student with the sinking heart if they’ve dealt with a difficult relative on the ward, or found it hard to find the right words to say to a patient who is struggling to come to terms with their diagnosis. It’s also a great read for lecturers and those mentoring student nurses – just to show you how students perceive you. And as everyone in nursing will have gone through some form of student experience – I can’t imagine many people who wouldn’t get something out of it. Truly the best book about nursing I’ve read so far. Bravo Jimmy Frazier.