The Nurses: A Year of Secrets, Drama, and Miracles with the Heroes of the Hospital

The Nurses: A Year of Secrets, Drama, and Miracles with the Heroes of the Hospital

by Alexandra Robbins

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A New York Times bestseller. “A funny, intimate, and often jaw-dropping account of life behind the scenes.”—People

Nurses is the compelling story of the year in the life of four nurses, and the drama, unsung heroism, and unique sisterhood of nursing—one of the world’s most important professions (nurses save lives every day), and one of the world’s most dangerous, filled with violence, trauma, and PTSD.

In following four nurses, Alexandra Robbins creates sympathetic characters while diving deep into their world of controlled chaos. It’s a world of hazing—“nurses eat their young.” Sex—not exactly like on TV, but surprising just the same. Drug abuse—disproportionately a problem among the best and the brightest, and a constant temptation. 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 page-turning, shocking look at our health-care system.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780761184232
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
Publication date: 04/14/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 14,679
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Alexandra Robbins, winner of the prestigious 2014 John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest Magazine Journalism, is the author of four New York Times bestsellers, including Pledged and The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth. She has written for The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The New York Times, and other publications, and has appeared on numerous television shows from 60 Minutes to The Colbert Report.

Read an Excerpt


Four hospitals stand within a fifty-mile radius of a major American city. On the surface, they are as different from one another as fairy-tale sisters.

Pines Memorial Hospital is a pleasant-looking cream-colored building with a sixteen-story tower and broad, welcoming windows overlooking a quiet tree-lined suburban avenue. After decades of independence, the neighborhood’s favorite hospital was bought out by Westnorth, a large healthcare corporation, which is slowly diluting the local flavor. With 190 beds, Pines Memorial serves a highly educated, wealthy population with a large percentage of academics, retirees, and nursing home residents. Because it is close to a major highway, Pines’ emergency room, which has approximately 60,000 visits per year, often treats victims of major-impact car accidents. Nurses joke that the hospital should be called Highway Memorial, because the risks of the highway are far more relevant to the medical staff than the quiet red pine forests outside of town.

Several miles away, South General Hospital occupies a mostly gray edifice curved away from the road, as if to shield its inhabitants from the gang violence that occurs frequently nearby. The Level-1 trauma center— designated as such because it has the resources to treat every stage of injury, from prevention through rehabilitation—has 300 beds to serve one of the most indigent areas outside the city. South General’s ER sees 95,000 ER patients annually. The reputation of “The South” is like that of the proverbial kid from the wrong side of the tracks, hoping to keep up with her peers, but unable to overcome the disadvantages of living on the poverty-stricken south side of town.

Forty-five minutes west, in a peaceful corner of the city, Academy Hospital, proud and prestigious, inhabits several white-pillared, brick structures that wind around courtyards and patios, reflecting the storied architecture of its surrounding university campus. With approximately 425 beds, Academy treats a ritzy demographic of young and middle-aged residents in the nearby million-dollar homes and the students at the elite university. The Academy ER treats fewer than 45,000 patients per year, partly because it simply does not have the building space to expand its emergency department walls.

And Citycenter Medical, a longtime teaching hospital, is split between two dusty beige high-rises, perhaps representative of its dual personalities: a stalwart institution with top-notch doctors and an ER so poorly managed it is considered dangerous by many of its own staff. A 390-bed Level-1 trauma center, Citycenter has an emergency department that is crumbling beneath the weight of the 85,000 annual patients it does not have enough nursing staff to treat properly. While Pines Memorial treats more blunt force, multisystem traumas because of the car accidents, Citycenter’s traumas are typically isolated injuries, such as gunshot wounds. Easily reached by public transportation and in the heart of a densely populated city, Citycenter is a destination of choice for homeless people, drug-seeking addicts, and the uninsured.

In each of these disparate institutions, pale blue curtains shroud pods of frightened people. In each, seasoned healers perform routine procedures and medical feats behind bleached sterile walls. And in each, tracking invisible undercurrents through hallway mazes, nurses connect doctors to patients, carrying out copious orders in synchronized steps, entwining themselves intimately in convalescents’ lives.

Table of Contents



What It’s Really Like to Be a Nurse: The Joy and Heartbreak of the “Secret Club”

Crossing Doctor–Nurse Lines: How the Sexy-Nurse Stereotype Affects Relationships with Doctors and Patients

Who Protects the Nurses? Taking Care of People Who Punch You in the Face

When Nurses Bully Nurses: Hierarchies, Hazing, and Why They Eat Their Young

Burnt to a Crisp: How Nurses Cope—and Why Some Crack 

The Stepford Nurse: How Hospitals Game the System for Patient “Satisfaction”

The Code of Silence: Painkillers, Gossip, and Other Temptations

Don’t Get Sick in July: Nurses’ Secrets—What Patients Need to Know About Their Hospitals and Their Health

What Makes a Hero: Why Nurses Do What They Do

What You Can Do: Advice and Inspiration for the Public, Patients, Families, Nurses, Aspiring Nurses, Managers, and Others

Wall of Heroes



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The Nurses: A Year of Secrets, Drama, and Miracles with the Heroes of the Hospital 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed getting to know Lara, Molly, Juliette, and Sam, the nurses who guide us through a world that's incredibly more complex than I realized. Following their stories made this book a very fast read. I finished it in one day! They really opened my eyes to the behind-the-scenes goings on of hospital life. The doctor-nurse politics, patient behavior and medical procedures made this seem like a TV show, which was fun to read. But most of all, I want to meet those four nurses and thank them for working so hard despite their challenges
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
THE NURSES is the best book I have read in years. It is both informative and enjoyable. It reads like a engaging novel. But I learned so much about nurses, doctors, and hospitals. This is a must-read for health professionals, anyone who knows health professionals.and anyone who may end up being a hospital patient. I would give this book more than five stars if I could.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don’t even know any nurses, but I couldn't tear myself away from “The Nurses.” The storyline was unquestionably riveting. I also learned a great deal about hospitals and was surprised by many items. Nurses are patients’ greatest advocates and too many people forget that. It was refreshing to get an education in these important matters -- and to be thoroughly entertained along the way.
Jennifer_Prather More than 1 year ago
I couldn't tear myself away from this book. Fast read, engaging characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am an avid nonfiction reader.  To me, there's nothing better that a nonfiction book that doesn't read like one.  I bought this book because it  is ranked so high on the Washington Post bestseller list.  I was not disappointed.  I recommend this book to anyone who likes to learn about important subjects that are presented  in an engrossing manner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have been in health care for 41 years, an RN since 1983 and an NP since 1997. This book reflects the reality of health care today. I wish every hospital administrator would read it and see how decisions without nursing input affect patient care.
M-Goddart More than 1 year ago
What an exceptional book! I didn’t know much about nurses before this book other than that they work with doctors and take your temperature and blood pressure. This is amazing insight into the heroic world they work in and the personal battles that go unseen. This is an AMAZING book. I highly recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was so bumbed when i thought i had another 50 pagges and it was over. Really enjoyed reading about the lives of thosefour personal nurses Good book and i hope it changes nursing in some hospital.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Great read for those interested in what it means and what it’s is like to be a nurse.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a retired LPN with 47 yrs experience of hospital and long term care I can relate to the problems all nurses face but especially in terms of understaffed. I have clocked out and returned to sit with a dying pt., have clocked out and returned to finish my work, taken no coffee or lunch breaks and gone hrs without stopping for the rest room. We have all been there, part of our job unfortunately. The only job I have ever wanted to do. This book tells it like it Is!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bought it on a whim and couldn't put it down! I started crying within the first 30 pages, on a plane, sitting next to strangers and was completely hooked. Robbins is masterful at getting her points accross by sharing the experiences of 4 different nurses over a year. I will not only do my best to never get sick in July, but I will give nurses an extra level of respect and my thanks whenever I interact with them from here on out. Robbins dances between stories, statistics and observations providing a lot of fabulous information with a spoonful of sugar.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was pretty good at showing some of the struggles faced by nurses in our current hospital environment. Sometimes it got a little annoying with whining about cliques and feeling left out. There are enough struggles with the job that some of that could have been left out. Overall it was a good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The writing is a little immature and reads somewhat like a tabloid article. The majority of the nurses come across as whiny and mean spirited. I was left wondering why they chose this profession when so many of the patients and staff irritate them. It was very disconcerting to know how much they discuss the patients in negative manner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this book...a must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. As a nurse, i was glad to see that im not alone in my concerns as to administration members with NO clinical experience (CFOs) making clinical judgements...It also was accurate and interesting in describing the intricacies of working in the field, such as balancing relationships with staff and patients. Enjoyable book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Since I'm not a nurse, but have been a patient at various times, I thought this book would give me a different perspective on what goes on  in a hospital. The book was so riveting that I couldn't put it down. The  back stories of the 4 main characters are riveting and eye opening.  Nurses truly are the unsung heroes in the hospital. This book is well  worth the read, not only for those in the medical profession, but for everyone else as well. Thank you, Ms. Robbins, for educating us.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was disappointed. I expected to read more about the patients they treated and the drama involving the staff they encountered. There was too much medical guidelines. I didn't buy this book to read that.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This isn't the writer, but I'd say I'm pretty good...
Vicki Halucha More than 1 year ago
As an RN for 30 yrs, and many of them as a nursing administrator, I couldn't even finish this book. What a bunch of lies! While nursing is definitely a high-pressure occupation, this book makes it sound like we are all walking time bombs. Short staffing is a real problem in many facilities, but it happens for a variety of reasons besides money. For many years, there just weren't enough nurses to go around. Many hospitals spent fortunes, even to going to other countries like England and the Philippines, to recruit the staff they needed. There are not vials of narcotics lying around unattended for the taking, as portrayed here. I felt like the author pulled out only the research information that suited her literary needs. There will always be immature, short-sighted workers in any field who want to view everything from a negative viewpoint, but that doesn't make it the truth. I was excited when I read about this book, now I wish I could get my money back.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting read all in all but slow and boring during parts. Hard to believe that nurses have such a huge bullying problem. Disconcerting since sick and hurt people have to rely on them, bullying shows low character. What keeps them from turning on patients?
Kathy Fenner More than 1 year ago
I particularly enjoyed this book. After a serious accident in 2011, I have been under constant medical care. Everyone of my "angels of mercy" have been so skilled and caring while helping me to recover from my injuries. To be able to see the inside lives of nurses makes me appreciate all of the healthcare professionals even more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago