The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story
By: Christie Watson
Published: May 8, 2018
So this review is going to be a little different! My boyfriend sent me a copy of this book so that we could read it together. We are currently long distance, so reading this book together gave us something we could connect over and talk about. It was such a great idea and I can’t wait for us to do another one.
This review will have two parts. One half of the review will be from me, and the other half will be from him. It’s a cool way for you guys to see how one book can mean different things to different people. It will also show you that this entire blog is just one perspective of many; I might not like every book I read and review here, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them!
From the Cover
Christie Watson spent twenty years as a nurse, and in this intimate, poignant, and remarkably powerful book, she opens the doors of the hospital and shares its secrets. She takes us by her side down hospital corridors to visit the wards and meet her unforgettable patients.
In the neonatal unit, premature babies fight for their lives, hovering at the very edge of survival, like tiny Emmanuel, wrapped up in a sandwich bag. On the cancer wards, the nurses administer chemotherapy and, long after the medicine stops working, something more important–which Watson learns to recognize when her own father is dying of cancer. In the pediatric intensive care unit, the nurses wash the hair of a little girl to remove the smell of smoke from the house fire. The emergency room is overcrowded as ever, with waves of alcohol and drug addicted patients as well as patients like Betty, a widow suffering chest pain, frail and alone. And the stories of the geriatric ward–Gladys and older patients like her–show the plight of the most vulnerable members of our society.
Through the smallest of actions, nurses provide vital care and kindness. All of us will experience illness in our lifetime, and we will all depend on the support and dignity that nurses offer us; yet the women and men who form the vanguard of our health care remain unsung. In this age of fear, hate, and division, Christie Watson has written a book that reminds us of all that we share, and of the urgency of compassion.
I work in health care and witness the work and care nurses provide on a daily basis. What is interesting about this book is that Watson has experience in many different types of nursing: emergency care, intensive care, pediatric intensive care, neonatal intensive care, surgery, mental health, and administration. This is what makes her stories so engaging. She witnesses every aspect of care–from birth to death–and shows the strength and vulnerability required to be a great nurse.
I found myself connecting with her stories–those of patients who are dying, the families who are struggling to digest a grim prognosis, and health care providers who see things that cannot be unseen. While some may think this is a book for nurses and other health professionals, it’s really one for all humans. The stories she tells and the hot topics she discusses–the lack of proper psychiatric care following deinstitutionalization, national health care, privatized health care, the abuse in the foster care system, geriatric care and abuse, end of life care, and rising health care costs–are things that all people should be thinking about, regardless of their profession.
If this book teaches you one thing, it is that no health care system is perfect. Not the one in America. Not the one in Canada. Not the one in England. All health care systems have their flaws and holes, and this book is important in that it does not glamorize nationalized or privatized health care systems. This book gets you thinking about the areas of health care where we should be proud, and those where we should be ashamed. I know one thing, I will go to work tomorrow and thank those providers who work tirelessly to ensure that at our most vulnerable, we feel peaceful, loved, and safe.
I visited Arthur Davidson Children’s Hospital in Ndola, Zambia, the only children’s hospital in the entire country, a few days ago. I was there doing research on maternal and child health with an old professor of mine. While both of our projects have a different focus, with mine being maternal mortality and hers being neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), we often traveled to the same hospitals.
The NICU in Davidson Children’s Hospital lacks all of the basic technologies American parents would expect for their care of their children. While there were incubators, they lacked enough monitors, CPAP machines, and doctors to properly serve premature infants. In fact, there is only one neonatologist in the entire country – and she is located in the capital city six hours from Ndola.
Despite all of these challenges, the nurses know the story of each patient, they have a deep understanding of what the infants need – though it is clear that they lack the necessary materials, and they have a compassion for their work. The greatest resource in the NICU of Arthur Davidson Children’s Hospital is the people – their love for the patients, careers, and country.
It is the Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story that makes me believe this love and compassion for patients is a commonality in nurses. Christie Watson takes the reader through her career as a caregiver, traveling through numerous different wards. You experience all of the happiness, embarrassing moments, and even some of the pain that she has felt while treating patients. There were even a couple of tear jerkers in there – and believe me when I say that I am not a crier. This book takes you behind the scenes of a major public hospital in London and displays all of the staff, as well as equipment shortages, that even a developed nation faces. Providing excellent health care is challenging, and this book clearly displays that. However, if this book has taught me anything, it is to never discount the nurses.