Title: Sisters – Memories from the courageous nurses of World War Two
Author: Barbara Mortimer
Publisher: Hutchinson 2012
Reviewer: Debbie Quinn, MS specialist nurse. Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS foundation Trust
What was it like?
This is a book covering the experience of nurses working during World War Two. It shares their personal experiences and diary entries but demonstrating the difficulties they experienced and how they continued to provide such an excellent service in extremely difficult situations. It shares the struggles, rationing and how nurse training was suspended for many. What is particularly poignant are the stories from those in the armed forces working abroad in makeshift hospitals, bombed buildings and tents providing essential care to the wounded. The book is exceptionally well written in ten chapters and it is easy to pick up and read in bite-size chunks. It also includes illustrations of many of the nurses whose stories are in the text.
What were the highlights?
The book brings nursing and the challenges it faced during the war years to life. It clearly shows how nursing evolved from these testing times. Many nurses reading today will see how much we take for granted now. These gutsy people demonstrate how much can be given with such limited resources. For me, the accounts from the nurses on the frontline and those of midwives working in the blitz were the most moving and emotional parts. Some of the entries discuss the dilemma of nursing prisoners of war – but all were of the opinion that whoever the patient was they received the same care as all. It really brought home to me how people worked together to ensure that life continued for so many.
Strengths & weaknesses:
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the first hand experiences of so many different nurses from various backgrounds including refugees. These women putting their “profession” and “dedication” before anything else, but also at times showing their worries and fears made the book a real treat.
Who should read it?
Anyone interested in the history of nursing would value this book. Equally I believe this book would be useful to any nurse who has a tendency to take for granted all the facilities and equipment available now.