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The Children's Nurse – The true Story of a Great Ormond Street Nurse

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Title: The Children’s Nurse – The true Story of a Great Ormond Street Nurse

Author: Susan MacQueen

Publisher: Orion Books, London

Reviewer: Kerry Bloodworth, assistant director of nursing, Nottingham University Hospitals.

What was it like?

This book is an autobiography of Susan McQueen and her career of which the majority of her time was spent at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH). The content is quite varied, about the hospitals in which she worked, her colleagues, friends, her personal life and about the nursing care she gave to children and their families in the latter half of the 20th century.

The book starts in the late 1960’s and regales the experiences that Susan had both from her general training (SRN) and then her experiences of  working at GOSH for the majority of her working career. This book is the “Call the Midwife” for children’s nursing. The book reminded me of examples of nursing care long now outdated in the 21st century, and examples of care that the author also commented that wouldn’t be allowed now. The book also included stories about children, their families that had left a mark on Susan’s memory, some of whom had been in hospital for a long time, some children who had sadly died.

Susan cited examples about the public health agenda of the time and why children were admitted to hospital, for long periods of time and the nursing care they received on the wards. It was common practice to be nursing a ventilated baby on the ward, long before the innovation of paediatric intensive care units. How the nursing staff coped with the winter bed pressures; families and the latest technology of the time e.g. total parental nutrition (TPN), which the nursing staff tailor made for each child. The process of nursing was at times using task allocation, the shifts Susan worked and the challenges she faced when she first started caring for sick children.

Towards the end of Susan’s career she had the opportunity to work in the Middle East and she shared the cultural difference of working and living abroad at that time.

What were the highlights? 

This is a fascinating book, which I really enjoyed reading; it would be a good read for nursing staff, who are also looking back at their careers like me or for student nurses who are just embarking on their careers. I’m sure staff from GOSH could relate to the wards and some of the characters that make up the footprint of such an iconic hospital. I remember transferring a child in the early 1980’s and I could familiarise myself with the descriptions of the hospital.

The book concludes with the opening ceremony of the Olympic games in 2012 and the emotions Susan felt as she then looked back on her career.

Strengths & weaknesses:

The strength of this autobiography is about all the experiences of student nurse, pupil midwife, and sick children’s nurse training and working in prestigious London Hospitals over the last four decades. It describes current practice at the time as well as the public health agenda. The book also shares many personal stories, of colleagues, friendships and the challenges of working on the wards.

Who should read it?

This book can be read and enjoyed by any one. It doesn’t have any clinical impact in the 21st century healthcare setting but is really interesting to read about nursing and personal experiences of work, leaving home and living in the nurses’ home some 40 years ago. For staff currently working at Great Ormond Street the book would have even more resonance as they would be familiar to some of the characters and wards that are mentioned.


The Childrens Nurse – The true Story of a Great Ormond Street Nurse

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