May 18, 2023

The Best Nursing Books for Your Reading List: 7 Compelling Reads for and About Nurses

By B&SC Blog Team

The Best Nursing Books for Your Reading List: 7 Compelling Reads for and About Nurses

Life as a nurse can be challenging, inspiring, exhausting, and fulfilling all at the same time. This range of experiences can be difficult to capture in the classroom, but that doesn’t mean you need to wait until you enter the field to understand what nursing is all about. Many talented writers describe this unique professional experience in captivating books that look inside the often misunderstood and under-appreciated nursing profession, shedding light on all that makes nursing special.

Whether enjoyed in their physical form or as audiobooks, the best nursing books will remind you why you’re committed to the healthcare field – and what you can offer your patients beyond purely clinical care. Finding time to read nursing books can be challenging when your schedule is so packed, but a few pages here or there can transform your mindset. Get your reading list started with these top book recommendations, which include both new releases and historical works:

1. Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in Between

Few books capture the exciting yet nerve-racking experience of being a new nurse like Theresa Brown’s Critical Care. This memoir details Brown’s first year as an oncology nurse. Interestingly, she jumped into this field after working as an English professor. As you can imagine, the transition wasn’t easy, but she felt that the opportunity to commit her life to deeply meaningful work made her career change more than worthwhile.

Throughout this wonderfully written memoir, Brown details her daily life on the oncology ward, highlighting typical procedures and memorable interactions with patients and their families. She also discusses relevant issues that nurses in all areas will face, such as the politics within her facility and evolving relationships with coworkers. She emerges from her first year with a newfound appreciation for life – a takeaway you will also gain when you finish this book.

2. Hot Lights, Cold Steel: Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon’s First Years

Although written by an orthopedic surgeon, this book can teach current and aspiring nurses plenty about the medical field. It describes the often chaotic life of a medical resident as he works at the iconic Mayo Clinic. Like many medical professionals, he deals not only with overachieving tendencies but also a severe case of impostor syndrome. Along the way, Michael Collins tackles the incorrect assumptions outsiders hold about the healthcare sector, demonstrating on numerous occasions that the field is far from glamorous.

Humor abounds, but plenty of poignant moments in the book can bring tears to any reader’s eyes. As many new professionals experience, he is forced to reassess his early idealism and confront his imperfections. If you enjoy this book, you will also want to read Blue Collar, Blue Scrubs, which turns back the clock and focuses on Collins’ earliest days in medical school.

3. Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not

As the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale receives heaps of praise to this day. Often, however, nurses know little about this influential figure, frequently relegated to a few short passages in textbooks. Her insights remain as relevant now as they were in 1859 when this short but information-packed guide was first published. Despite its historical context, this nonfiction work holds a lot of current relevance and should be a core part of any modern nurse’s reading list.

Notes on Nursing provides a clear reminder that Nightingale was ahead of her time. The book touches on several holistic practices that are finally getting the attention they deserve. Nightingale also discusses the vital role of women in the medical field, plus the importance of depending on careful observation instead of intuition alone. Her writing style is lovely, although it may take some getting used to if you’re accustomed to contemporary books for nurses.

4. The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story

Following decades of work in nursing, bestselling writer Christie Watson provides an inside look at the daily challenges and joys of working in a hospital setting. From the neonatal unit to the cancer ward, she shares the most touching stories from this emotionally charged environment, where nurses provide much more than clinical care alone. Watson reveals just how transformative kindness can be in the medical world – and how it’s shared by nurses and patients alike.

This book might not be for you if you’re looking for nursing stories that will have you on the edge of your seat. Its pace is often slow, and its tone is nearly always gentle. Still, you’ll find the sheer humanity of this work gripping. Watson’s love for her patients is never in question, nor are her convictions about the greater need for kindness in everyday life.

5. The Healer’s War

On the hunt for fiction books about nurse life? Nothing quite compares to The Healer’s War. A winner of the 1989 Nebula Award, this remarkable novel shows that nursing can be an excellent topic for a science fiction book. Focused on the unforgettable journey of a nurse during the Vietnam War, this surreal saga examines a variety of complex themes while introducing you to compelling characters you won’t quickly forget.

Despite the science fiction and fantasy designations, the wartime world that author Elizabeth Ann Scarborough weaves in the book’s first half feels all too real. Combat nurse Kitty McCulley might not be on the front lines, but she still discovers the brutal realities of war as she treats soldiers suffering from painful and debilitating physical injuries and PTSD. The book’s fantastical elements arrive later, as the main character gets a better sense of the atrocities of war with help from a powerful amulet.

Through both its realistic and fantastical portions, this saga reminds us that nurses play an essential role in every corner of the globe – and that their empathetic care makes a world of difference for patients in need.

6. Call the Midwife: A True Story of the East End in the 1950s

Nurses love the TV show “Call the Midwife,” but the book version is just as impressive. The first in a popular series by Jennifer Worth, this bestseller began as a direct response to commentary from the Royal College of Midwives Journal, where an article claimed that midwives were woefully underrepresented in the literary world.

Worth solved this problem – and then some – with a memoir based on her early days as a district nurse. Throughout the book, Worth (referred to by her maiden name, Lee) supports mothers as they undergo traumatic deliveries. Still, there are many lighthearted moments.
While this is an especially valuable read for anybody who hopes to one day work in obstetrics or as a neonatal nurse, any future healthcare professional will appreciate the blend of levity and humor that Worth brings to her writing.

7. Small Great Things

Another captivating story about a labor and delivery nurse, Small Great Things is the perfect read for any nurse who happens to be a fan of the acclaimed Jodi Picoult. This novel examines not just the nursing profession but also the complicated interplay of race and the healthcare industry.

The premise is both thought provoking and horrific: the African American nurse at the center of this story is instructed not to care for the baby of a white supremacist, but this has dire consequences when that baby goes into cardiac distress.

Be prepared to binge-read this evocative work, which contains several courtroom scenes that will keep those pages turning. You’ll be forced to think about various ethical quandaries along the way. Medical jargon abounds, and while some readers claim this is annoying, it should provide excellent context for the terms you frequently encounter in nursing school.

Start Your Journey Today

Books about nursing can provide a wealth of inspiration, but nothing compares to a high-quality education from a respected nursing school. Look to Bryant & Stratton for the targeted training you need as you prepare to take your nursing career to the next level.

At Bryant & Stratton, we’re pleased to provide exceptional training for the nurses of tomorrow. From our Bachelor of Science in Nursing to the RN to BSN program, we offer numerous opportunities to pursue a career that allows you to make a difference.

Ready to get started? Feel free to request more information about our healthcare programs. We’d love to help get you on the path to a rewarding career.

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