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

By Alexandra Robbins


360 pp., New York, NY: Workman Publishing, 2015, $24.95, hardcover.


REVIEW: For one year, readers shadow four RNs in different hospitals and various settings, while seeing the truths of the nursing profession, some of them ugly. These nurses tell it like it is: toxic workplace settings, long hours, understaffing, burnout, bullying, and the joys of the profession. Robbins rolls back the curtain to reveal the real struggles and satisfactions of those in nursing. "This book does not romanticize the career. Nurses want the public to know the truth about nursing. It can be a difficult, exhausting, exasperating, and dangerous job, in which they are often overworked and understaffed. But it is also joyous, rewarding, challenging, fascinating, exciting, and meaningful. Nurses want current and future patients and their families to know the healthcare secrets that can save their lives. And they want potential nurses to know how deeply and passionately they love what they do. 'Nursing is not a job. It is a life,' a Kansas nurse manager said. 'It is who you are.'" (pp. 25-26).

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Topics include, among others, hierarchies, hazing, coping, substance abuse, stereotypes, doctor/nurse interactions, patient satisfaction, and advice and inspiration. Patients, administrators, educators, policy makers, and providers get a glimpse of nursing in this decade.


Reading opened a window for me to the work-world of nurses. As a nonnurse, I kept asking myself, "Why would anyone want to be a nurse?" Kathy Schoonover-Shoffner answered best: "It is because we love caring for people." I know several nursing students and plan to give them a copy of the book.-Cathy Walker,JCN Associate Editor, Madison, WI.




Freeing Missions from the Christian-Industrial Complex

By Scott A. Bessenecker


200 pp., Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014, $16.00, paperback.


REVIEW: Scott Bessenecker examines how the capitalistic mindset has inserted itself into the Christian church and mission. He questions if this is biblical and if there are alternatives to this model. He notes that "Nearly all the places we work have assumed the outline of a commercial business enterprise. Even health care (emphasis mine) and public education, the last bastions of altruistic human service, are being conformed more and more by the for-profit, corporate paradigm" (p. 23).

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Using the story of Jesus overturning the tables in the temple to address the injustices and exploitation of the religious aristocracy, Bessenecker asks if we shouldn't be more discerning in the way the church conducts its business today. He goes back to the time of the Protestant Reformation and observes how the history of missions is tied to the advent of the limited liability corporation, such as the British East India Company, which allowed investors to reap large profits with limited risk. The spread of the gospel was inexplicably tied to political and economic expansion. Because the capitalistic model worked well, it was also used as an organizing framework by the Protestant church to spread the gospel.


The capitalistic, corporate model values things like competition-we have many different churches, and people have the freedom to choose which church they will attend. This leads to churches competing for members. Success is measured in numbers. Corporations exist to serve individuals and provide them with profits and status. Churches can seek to serve individual members, as opposed to individuals coming together in communal worship of God and to serve the church. Our faith becomes a private, personal matter rather than a communal identity. Bessenecker identifies many other ways in which the capitalistic corporate model has impacted Christian organizations. He skillfully questions the veracity of the underlying assumptions on which the capitalistic model is built and their applicability to Christian endeavors, and suggests alternatives for Christian organizations to consider.


I resonate with much of what Bessenecker wrote. I have long been weary of measuring the success of ministry in terms of numbers of converts (something that is dependent on the work of the Holy Spirit), instead of kingdom values of justice, righteousness, and holiness. The business model values success, money, and status, none of which will be taken with us into eternity. Bessenecker writes, "This mission cannot be packaged as a product. It cannot be reduced to a privatized exchange. It is not a mission of individual prosperity but of communal shalom. It is a cosmic mandate to work with the Savior in replenishing all things corrupted by brokenness and sin" (p. 110).


Although the author makes excellent points and presents his arguments convincingly, I found some points a bit harsh, resorting to stereotypes. I sometimes felt I had contributed to the current state of affairs because I come from northern European Protestant descent. Although he admires the poor who are bivocational, he never mentions the Reformed theologian and Dutch prime minister, Abraham Kuyper, who taught and proclaimed that all work is done to the glory of God, whether it is as clergy or as a garbage collector. The evangelical dichotomy between sacred and secular vocations is favored over Reformed teaching of vocation as calling. I readily admit that I have many failures and have made many mistakes throughout my missionary nursing career. This has given me a deep appreciation of God's redemptive power. Through these errors, I've learned that God is able to use not only our successes, but also our failures in building his kingdom. It would be nice if Bessenecker acknowledged that truth as well.


This is a well-written, provocative book. It needs to be carefully read by North American leaders of Christian churches and organizations. Although directed to Christian organizations, as Christian nurses who believe that our vocation is also our calling, and who are subject to the frustrations of working in settings that have rapidly adopted a capitalistic model, we need to consider how the capitalistic model impacts the future of Christian nursing.-Grace Tazelaar, MS, RN, NCF Missions Director, Villa Park, IL.


Going Deeper

Going Deeper helps you dig deeper into JCN content, offering ideas for personal or group study with other nurses-great for Nurses Christian Fellowship groups! Previous issues of Going Deeper are available free online at under "JCN Extras."


* Using the Internet to Increase Physical Activity: Read Washington et al., pp. 168-173.


1. What makes Internet interventions effective?


2. What additional support measures did participants find helpful?


3. Rate your degree of physical activity outside of work. How might you increase your level of physical activity?


4. Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. Discuss the physical and spiritual nature of one body, many parts. Assess your health needs in each area, physical and spiritual. What adjustments might be needed to increase health in each area?


* What Guides Your Nursing Practice? Read Colvard Hountras, pp. 179-181.


1. The author asks, "How does my belief in the significance of nursing education affect how I care for patients?" How would you answer, based on your nursing philosophy?


2. Read the sidebar on p. 181. Based on these questions and your own thoughts, describe your nursing philosophy.


3. Read Ephesians 6:7 and Colossians 2:27. How might these verses inform your nursing practice? Describe an experience where your faith made a difference in your care.


* Service-Learning and Interprofessional Education: Read Furr et al., pp. 162-167.


1. List a few of the benefits of service-learning and interprofessional education.


2. What ideas are listed for developing a model in nonfaith-based settings?


3. Discuss the author's statement, "Interprofessional education is an essential component of today's evolving and challenging healthcare environment. Many healthcare discipline curricula require IPE as a component of professional courses."