Saturday, February 27, 2010

Suzanne Gordon Offers A New Book for Nurses

Suzanne Gordon, an esteemed author previously discussed on this blog (click here and here for two of those posts), has now published a new book about nursing that will certainly be required reading for anyone desirous of a realistic view of issues facing nurses in the 21st century.

"When Chicken Soup Isn't Enough: Stories of Nurses Standing Up for Themselves, Their Patients, and Their Profession", is a response to the soft and sentimental genre of feel-good books which have been published, according to Gordon, to lift the spirits of overworked and unappreciated nurses without thought of empowerment or a true representation of what nurses actually do. Gordon says on her website:

"The problem is, in this heavily sentimental genre, the real-world context of long hours, increased patient loads, and chronic understaffing quickly fades into the background. In the foreground we see traditional images of nurses as people (generally women) who “make a difference” through their touch–always gentle–and niceness. Rarely are their abilities or technical knowledge–represented in a true-to-life setting–the subjects of the story…"

I for one greatly appreciate Gordon's response to what I see as an insipid "Chicken Soup" book culture that uses platitudes and niceties to gloss over the true reality behind the myth of nurses as angels of mercy who simply need a pat on the back and an inspirational story in order to continue working double shifts and mandatory overtime without complaint.

Gordon continues on her website:

"No wonder the public clings to this sentimentalized vision of nurses and texts that are produced to inspire nurses deliver up story after saccharine story that reinforce traditional stereotypes of nursing and women’s work. Nurses are plied from every direction with a narrative that depicts them as modern angels endowed with extraordinary powers of empathy and compassion–qualities that are never depicted as the products of education or experience on the job."

The "angel of mercy" image of nurses---long a myth brought forward since the time of Florence Nightingale---has indeed secured a place in the modern view of nurses, and it is authors like Suzanne Gordon who seek to shatter that image and paint a picture of nurses' challenges and true professionalism with realistic hues.

I sincerely hope that I myself have not inadvertently contributed to this widespread sentimentalism about nurses and nursing through my own writings in print and online, but as a nurse on the front lines since the mid-90's, I hope I have indeed written enough about the vicissitudes of nursing over the years to make up for any notions of sentimentality on my part.

Suzanne Gordon's consistent championing of the cause of 21st-century nursing is heartening and encouraging. Gordon brings a sober journalist's eye to a subject that, according to her keen observation, has been watered down and delivered without consideration regarding how to move nurses from sentimental caricature to real life. Gordon believes that nurses need "crucial tools" such as negotiation and conflict resolution in order to have a true seat at the health care table, and the "inspirational narratives" so often published about nurses focus too much on feeling and not enough on the nitty gritty action that portrays nurses in a true light.

I greatly look forward to reading Gordon's new book, and applaud her for her advocacy and courage as a writer and journalist. Gordon has done a great deal for nurses through her work as an author, and I'm certain that this new collection will only add to the canon of literature that truly defines the reality of modern-day nursing.

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