Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Tag: hospital

Heart: A History by Sandeep Jauhar

The bestselling author of Intern and Doctored tells the story of the thing that makes us tick

For centuries, the human heart seemed beyond our understanding: an inscrutable shuddering mass that was somehow the driver of emotion and the seat of the soul. As the cardiologist and bestselling author Sandeep Jauhar shows in Heart: A History, it was only recently that we demolished age-old taboos and devised the transformative procedures that have changed the way we live.
Deftly alternating between key historical episodes and his own work, Jauhar tells the colorful and little-known story of the doctors who risked their careers and the patients who risked their lives to know and heal our most vital organ. He introduces us to Daniel Hale Williams, the African American doctor who performed the world’s first open heart surgery in Gilded Age Chicago. We meet C. Walton Lillehei, who connected a patient’s circulatory system to a healthy donor’s, paving the way for the heart-lung machine. And we encounter Wilson Greatbatch, who saved millions by inventing the pacemaker–by accident. Jauhar deftly braids these tales of discovery, hubris, and sorrow with moving accounts of his family’s history of heart ailments and the patients he’s treated over many years. He also confronts the limits of medical technology, arguing that future progress will depend more on how we choose to live than on the devices we invent. Affecting, engaging, and beautifully written, Heart: A History takes the full measure of the only organ that can move itself.


Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

I am a big fan of the author and his writing, and HEART did not disappoint. There were many facts about the heart (some obscure, some not) interspersed throughout the book to complement patient stories. We read about the author as a young boy and his personal desire to work in cardiology, stemming from the story of a relative’s death during his formative years. The author comes across as a caring and knowledgeable doctor with a kind bedside manner – there are no veiled frustrations or jabs at ornery patients, as I have read in other medical books.

One of the best things about the book is that it’s part history, part medicine, part almost-gory-but-not-overly-done, and part philosophy. Each chapter can stand alone and be read a few days apart without having to remember the plot or which patient he is discussing. Thoughtful illustrations are added to underscore the meaning of the chapters, and footnotes are added to provide explanations or information without slowing down the flow of the narrative. The book strikes a great balance of science and interesting plot without slowing down the narrative with a lot of detail that the average reader without a medical background wouldn’t understand. For someone like me, with a medical background, there were also enough facts to keep me interested. Some books minimize details to make it easy for the reader; Jauhar does not do that. This makes his books fascinating and eminently readable.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.


Counting Backwards ( A Doctor’s Notes on Anesthesia) by Henry Jay Przybylo

For many of the 40 million Americans who undergo anesthesia each year, it is the source of great fear and fascination. From the famous first demonstration of anesthesia in the Ether Dome at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1846 to today’s routine procedure that controls anxiety, memory formation, pain relief, and more, anesthesia has come a long way. But it remains one of the most extraordinary, unexplored corners of the medical world.
In Counting Backwards, Dr. Henry Jay Przybylo—a pediatric anesthesiologist with more than thirty years of experience—delivers an unforgettable account of the procedure’s daily dramas and fundamental mysteries. Przybylo has administered anesthesia more than 30,000 times in his career—erasing consciousness, denying memory, and immobilizing the body, and then reversing all of these effects—on newborn babies, screaming toddlers, sullen teenagers, even a gorilla. With compassion and candor, he weaves his experiences into an intimate exploration of the nature of consciousness, the politics of pain relief, and the wonder of modern medicine.

Filled with intensity and humanity, with moments of near-disaster, life-saving success, and simple grace, Counting Backwards is for anyone curious about what happens after we lose consciousness.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

There is nothing as fascinating as anesthesia. The very idea of being in a state where your insides could be cut, manipulated, and sewn back together is mind-blowing; yet this happens on a daily basis all over the world. COUNTING BACKWARDS is the personal account of a person with intimate knowledge and respect for this phenomenon.

He shares stories of the good, the bad, and the ugly surgeries that he has overseen. From babies to gorillas, he has seen more than his share. The book is not just medical jargon; he recounts his interactions with patients and shares some of his most intimate thoughts with us. We learn what his routine is when setting up for a surgery – and why it never varies. We learn the history and development of anesthesia drugs – and why he creates a new plan for each patient. Dr Przybylo is a caring and meticulous man, one that I would want in the surgery suite with me.

This memoir came about when he enrolled in the MFA program at Goucher College; a step that is admirable and daunting. His professors must have loved encouraging and developing his writing style, as the story flows as smoothly as isoflurane into the lungs. The good doctor draws from his years of experience as he discusses patients, medicine, and humanity. Each story has a moral of sorts – they don’t always have a happy ending – but there is always a lesson to be learned.

It takes a special person to have the intelligence to understand the workings of anesthesia, while also possessing the compassion to care for people. The human race can be a frustrating and ugly bunch while sick and/or scared – I’ve been one of those people a few times. Dr Przybylo is kind enough, as well as strong enough, and that is what made this book stand out for me. There was just enough anesthetic detail and gore to keep me interested, while keeping the human condition firmly front and center. This book would be a wonderful addition to someone’s medical library.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”0393254437″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

The Joy Of Nursing by Juliana Adams

joy of nursing

Juliana Adams has lived her dream of being a nurse for 50 years. Her stories are stunning and startling; raw and revealing; heart wrenching and heart soaring. In her eye-opening experiences, she provides a deeper perspective … to always look beyond the diagnosis … because every nurse is more than just a nurse!
The Joy of Nursing: Reclaiming Our Nobility is provocative and riveting as the stories from new nurse to intuitive experienced nurse unfold. Far more than a memoir, it is a rich journey from novice to expert, a concept with historical roots for all who enter this profession.
-Are you a nurse or exploring nursing as a career?
-Are you wondering what is true about being a nurse?
-Does your nursing reality match the dream you once envisioned?

With courage, insight and optimism, Juliana Adams reveals the challenges and barriers that face the profession. To be a nurse is an honor.
She shares stories, her insights, and her dedication to nursing are exactly what the overwhelmed, disillusioned, innocent and anyone entering nursing needs.

Many thanks to the author and JKS Communications for gifting me this book for review!

Nursing is not an easy job – there is heartbreak, stress, and backbreaking work involved. THE JOY OF NURSING illustrates all that, but with an undertone of hope, pride, and strength.

To have a career that spans 50 years is impressing and daunting in itself, never mind having to deal with human suffering for all that time. Imagine the innovations that one would see, watching the field grow and develop! Adams starts with  the beginning of nursing, as created by Florence Nightingale, and discusses how doctors would view these eager young women entering the field. She then ties that in with her own nascent desire to become a nurse, and describes her journey.

Patient care itself has not changed since the first nurse started doing her job; rather, it is the albatross of Health Insurance that has skewed how hospitals are run. The objectives are still the same; ease pain and suffering, provide a friendly face to those who worry about their loved ones, and advocate for those who have no voice.

Adams does all of these things and more – and tells how she tries to find joy in each day. One story that touched me a great deal was the gently used clothing bin she and other nurses created; for indigent patients whose clothing was soiled due to illness, or for those who simply didn’t have another change of clothes available. What a thoughtful thing to do – provide a basic human need at a time when it is needed the most.

As you read through this book, you will see that Adams is intent on keeping nurses in love with their job, by sharing her own struggles and solutions. Words of advice can be found on almost every page, with scenarios that show how Adams grew within her profession and how she overcame her own disillusionment. She is honest and open about her own strengths and weaknesses while telling us the lessons she has learned over the years.  It is easy to see how each of her patients has touched her as their lives intersected.

The underlying intent of THE JOY OF NURSING is obvious – Adams has done a wonderful job of sharing the love she has for her calling – and the message comes through loud and clear. The blurb notes that it is good for either new nursing graduates or for those who are feeling disillusioned.

We all need a bit of encouragement now and then; and this book will certainly provide that for nurses. Who will heal the healers? Adams understands that advice from someone who has “been there” is invaluable. She gives the field of nursing a valuable and necessary gift in this book.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”0997200324″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].


The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly by Matt McCarthy


real doctor

In medical school, Matt McCarthy dreamed of being a different kind of doctor—the sort of mythical, unflappable physician who could reach unreachable patients. But when a new admission to the critical care unit almost died his first night on call, he found himself scrambling. Visions of mastery quickly gave way to hopes of simply surviving hospital life, where confidence was hard to come by and no amount of med school training could dispel the terror of facing actual patients.

This funny, candid memoir of McCarthy’s intern year at a New York hospital provides a scorchingly frank look at how doctors are made, taking readers into patients’ rooms and doctors’ conferences to witness a physician’s journey from ineptitude to competence. McCarthy’s one stroke of luck paired him with a brilliant second-year adviser he called “Baio” (owing to his resemblance to the Charles in Charge star), who proved to be a remarkable teacher with a wicked sense of humor. McCarthy would learn even more from the people he cared for, including a man named Benny, who was living in the hospital for months at a time awaiting a heart transplant. But no teacher could help McCarthy when an accident put his own health at risk, and showed him all too painfully the thin line between doctor and patient.

The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly
offers a window on to hospital life that dispenses with sanctimony and self-seriousness while emphasizing the black-comic paradox of becoming a doctor: How do you learn to save lives in a job where there is no practice?



Not all doctors come with the confidence and arrogance familiar to us all. Every one of them started out the same way – new graduates in their intern year, struggling to assimilate their textbook knowledge with real life. Matt McCarthy shares his experience in a self deprecating and sometimes comic way.

Taking place over a year’s time, THE REAL DOCTOR WILL SEE YOU SHORTLY shows the reader how McCarthy matures as a doctor and as a self-aware human. He was so awkward and hesitant in the beginning, I wondered if he was going to make it through the year. At times I wondered what made him so timid. There was a career decision elaborated upon early in the book, and I was disappointed in his choice. I truly felt he made the wrong move, given his character and personality. In the final part of the book, he addresses that choice and why he made it. Those words provided some sort of closure for me and I finally agreed with his decision. In his own words:

But as the year wore on, I developed the ability to think outside the diagnosis,  beyond the science of medicine to the art of medicine. I discovered that there is so much more to being a doctor than ordering tests and dispensing medications. And there is no way to teach that. It simply takes time and repetition. 

…I was meant to do whatever the hell you’d call the extraordinary stuff we did at Columbia. Intern year had fundamentally changed me–it had altered the way I viewed the world and myself–and it was unquestionably the most fun I never wanted to have again. 

Patients and cases are outlined, some with great detail, others just to show what lessons he was learning. One of the complaints I have is that some patients’ stories end abruptly with McCarthy never seeing the person again; others just aren’t followed up on. I understand that real life is like that, and these patients are composites of many; but I grew frustrated with things not being tied up neatly. Two cases that loomed large in the author’s life: Benny Santos and Carl Gladstone are featured in almost every chapter, as they illustrate just how far things have progressed over the year. Others, like “Dre” and asthmatic Darryl, just vanish into the night.

That really is my only issue with THE REAL DOCTOR. McCarthy’s writing is easy to follow, and pulls no punches in showing the lay person how hard doctors work and the struggles, internal and external, they face on a daily basis.  There is a minimum of gory details, and the medical jargon is easy to grasp. Nor is there the overly glib, broadly humorous style I’ve seen in other books. That was a relief, as I think that takes away from the truly serious nature of the subject

This was a good addition to my “true medical stories” bookshelf. Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”0804138656″ locale=”US” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. Check out the author’s page here.




The Nurses by Alexandra Robbins





In this lively, fast-paced narrative, New York Times bestselling author Alexandra Robbins digs deep into the subculture of nursing, drawing readers into a brilliantly captivating in-depth investigation of the extraordinary working lives of nurses and the shocking behind-the-scenes secrets that all patients and their loved ones need to know.

The Nurses is told through the real-life stories of four women in different hospitals: Molly, funny, well-loved, and confident enough to quit a longtime job after her hospital ramps up its anti-nurse policies. Lara, a superstar nurse who tries to battle her way back from a near-ruinous prescription-drug addiction. The outspoken but compassionate Juliette, a fierce advocate for her patients. And Sam, a first-year nurse, struggling to find her way in a gossipy mean-girl climate she likens to “high school, except for the dying people.”

Readers will root for these bedside heroes, who operate in a world filled with joy and violence, miracles and heartbreak, dark humor and gripping drama. It’s a world of hazing—“nurses eat their young.” Sex—not exactly like on TV, but more prevalent than many imagine. Drug abuse—disproportionately a problem among the best and the brightest. There are true-life archetypes—the handsome, suave doctor, the patient brought back from death, the hunky male nurse. And bullying—by peers, by patients, by hospital bureaucrats, and especially by doctors, an epidemic described as lurking in the “shadowy, dark corners of our profession.”

The result is a riveting page-turner, insightful and thought-provoking, that will leave readers feeling smarter about their healthcare and undeniably appreciative of the incredible nurses who provide it.

Thanks to Net Galley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Alexandra Robbins is familiar with bringing the reader into a closed society; she is the author of [easyazon_link identifier=”0786888598″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities[/easyazon_link]. Her research is exhaustive, thorough and massive. For THE NURSES, she has interviewed hundreds of nursing professionals, active and retired, along with intensive reading of healthcare related books.

The plot is exactly as described–we are following the stories of four nurses as they navigate their way through their workdays at different hospitals. The workplaces are vastly different; one is in a low income area and very dangerous, another is in a better area but understaffed, yet another employs a staff that is closeminded and cliquey.  Each chapter covers a different subject, such as interpersonal difficulties, healthcare in general, the physical danger to nurses, availability of loose drugs and therefore the potential to become hooked, and the doctor’s and healthcare industry’s attitude towards nurses in general.

As I read, I simply could not believe what I was seeing. My perception of nursing changed 180 degrees as I made my way through the book. Discard your vision of a glamorous, overpaid, angel in white. Be prepared to hear about nurses getting fired for following doctor’s orders, drunk patients wreaking havoc and causing serious permanent injury, staff surfing the Internet and being “too busy” to give aid to their coworkers, and the overwhelming, constant burden of having too many patients under your care.

The more I read, the less I want to be anywhere near a hospital.

Gore and lengthy descriptions of medical procedures are not a part of this book. Rather, there are recountings of conversations, incidents, and situations that these nurses found themselves dealing with on a daily basis.  The book is detailed and can be a bit long winded, just a bit, especially with some of the statistics that seem to go on for a while, but they are relevant and serve to educate the reader.

I’m interested to see what the nursing community has to say about this book–will there be an outpouring of agreement, or is Robbins sensationalizing the truth? Either way, THE NURSES is well written and thrusts you into a world most of us don’t normally see. Most of us probably aren’t even aware that this shady underbelly of medicine exists. Kudos to Robbins for bringing it to the forefront.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”0761171711″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].




Internal Medicine by Terrence Holt


A collection of essays about life as a surgical intern.

Terrence Holt, whose In the Valley of the Kings was hailed as a “work of genius” (New York Times) and made Amazon’s Top Ten Short Story Collections of the year, brings a writer’s eye and a doctor’s touch to this powerful account of residency.

Intense, ironic, heartfelt, and heartbreaking, these nine vivid stories put us at the bedside of a patient dying in a house full of cursing parrots, through a nightmarish struggle to convince a man that he has cancer, at a life-and-death effort to keep an oxygen mask on a claustrophobic patient, and in the lounge of a snowbound hospital where doctors swap yarns through the night.

Out of these “dioramas from the Museum of Human Misery”, Holt draws meaning, beauty, wonder, and truth. Personal, poignant, and meticulously precise, these stories evoke Chekhov, Maugham, and William Carlos Williams, admitting readers to the beating heart of medicine. Internal Medicine is an account of what it means to be a doctor, to be mortal, and to be human.

This book was on my “to-read” list, so I picked it up from the library. Attempts to reach the author for a review/giveaway copy were unsuccessful.

It only took a few pages for INTERNAL MEDICINE to become a great read. Told in the voice of a doctor, explaining how he handled difficult cases during his internship, this book is alternately chilling and poignant. The take away message is this: doctors have self doubt and fatigue just like everyone else, despite the brave front they put on.

Each chapter told the story of one patient, and how Holt learned from their situation. One lesson was patience, one was bravery, one was teamwork, and so on. Brilliant details and situations that everyone can identify with are what makes this such a moving and important read.

As I read about the woman whose oxygen saturation was dipping into the 80’s, yet she kept ripping her O2 mask off due to claustrophobia, I ferverently hoped I would never be ill and lingering in the hospital. The intimate details of how the human body betrays us all is what will stay with you, long after the book is finished. Holt’s writing style is easy to follow, and full of honesty.

Each chapter can be read as a stand alone, and I recommend that–for you will need time to digest the life lessons revealed with each patient’s final outcome. Holt does not hide his fear, his disgust, his anger, and his weariness. He exposes himself –  and the entire medical profession – with stories that cannot help but touch your soul. What makes this book so wonderful is that the stories take place during his internship, where each moment is a learning experience and a doctor’s intuition is “make or break”.  The spin on each chapter would be totally different if it was written under the guise of a man who was completely comfortable with his medical knowledge, with his ability to heal and comfort. Instead, there are questions and internal monologues, which make the doctor not larger than life, but truly human and with foibles.

The book can be graphic at times, so beware. Seasoned readers of the medical genre will enjoy it, as there are some things that I haven’t read about previously. The scenes and maladies are diverse, and there is a chilling story from a mental hospital thrown in for good measure. The only chapter I had a problem with was the last one: a seemingly out of place fable (told  on a regular basis by doctors) about an incident that may or may not have taken place in real life–a rambling and unsatisfying tale told (in this case) by an older doctor in an on call room where others are trying to get some rest.  I’m not sure why the author chose to end with this story, as it took the life out of the other eight chapters that went before.  Other than that, I have nothing but praise for INTERNAL MEDICINE. This should be on the must read shelf for all those about to enter the medical profession.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link asin=”0871408759″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]here[/easyazon_link].







Doctored by Sandeep Jauhar

[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”yes” align=”left” asin=”0374141398″ cloaking=”default” height=”500″ localization=”yes” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ width=”333″]

This was another book I picked up at the library for myself, and I was excited to see the author of [easyazon_link asin=”0374531595″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”default”]Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation[/easyazon_link] had written another book. This one is of a bit darker tone, as he talks about his struggle to keep focused and happy saving lives and battling insurance companies. The main focus of this book is money and cronyism: how much it costs for medical care, how much the doctors are getting paid, ways to circumvent insurance companies’ unwillingness to pay, and quid pro quo buddy systems where referrals are the goal.

Once again, as in other books written by doctors, this was pretty depressing. On page 11 Jauhar talks about how doctors are disillusioned:

In 2001, 58% of about 2000 physicians questioned said their enthusiasm for medicine had gone down in the previous five years, and 87% said their overall morale had declined during that time. More recent surveys  have shown that 30 to 40% of practicing physicians would not choose to enter the medical profession if they were deciding on a career again, and an even higher percentage would not encourage their children to pursue a medical career.

There are many reasons for this disillusionment besides managed care. An unintended consequence of progress is that physicians increasingly say they have inadequate time to spend with patients. Medical advances have transformed once terminal diseases – cancer, AIDS, congestive heart failure – into complex chronic conditions that must be managed long term.

So.  We have people living longer, restrictions placed on doctors by HMOs, pressure to make ends meet at home,  and doctors being forced to produce referrals in order to maintain the old boy network. That could definitely make anyone disillusioned. What’s scary about this situation is that people’s lives are at stake here. All anyone wants is to be able to trust their physician, that he will do no harm.

Jauhar tells his story, warts and all: he is frustrated at not being able to practice his own medicine, without having to network. His marriage is straining due to lack of money. He seems to be suffering from depression that is untreated. Personally, I would not want to be in the hands of a doctor that was being pressured on so many fronts. But Jauhar perserveres, tries to practice good medicine, and attempts to play the game. He marvels at the circumstance of a man, admitted to the hospital because of shortness of breath. During his 30 day, $200,000 stay, he was seen by SEVENTEEN doctors and underwent TWELVE procedures. He was discharged with only “minimal improvement in his shortness of breath” and “follow ups…with SEVEN specialists“.

As the book proceeds further, Jauhar discusses taking away the financial incentive to over test patients, and make suggestions on how to fix our beleagured healthcare system. His arguments are sound, and probably could only happen in a perfect world. I urge you to read this book, only if it will help arm you against unscrupulous surgeons and the overreach of the billing department.

The only problem I have with the book is that I wasn’t sure if Jauhar wanted to make it a story about him, or a general story about our healthcare. He will start off a chapter with a patient’s story, then end up talking about how it affected him and how frustrated he was,  then insert a dialogue he had with his young son. Then the next chapter will start off with personal thoughts and stories about how he was mentally checked out of his marriage, and suddenly mention a patient. There was also a  long part about him trying to moonlight, but not billing enough, not seeing enough patients, and not playing the game–but instead of trying to fix things, he seems to go into a vapor lock (that could be the depression) and let things just swirl around him and get worse.  He seemed to be very wishy washy here, and let his brother and father galvanize him into action by calling in favors and getting him money making opportunities. Nothing he did made him happy, and that whole middle section of the book was very depressing and drawn out. Eventually things get better at home for the author…..but our healthcare system stays broken.

This was a very illuminating read, and a good follow up to INTERN– we see how Jauhar grows as a doctor and becomes more self aware.  DOCTORED is a great book for anyone who thinks all doctors are millionaires. Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link asin=”0374141398″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]here.[/easyazon_link]

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