1. Modic, Mary Beth DNP, RN, CDE

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This is Part 2 in the column series on book recommendations. We know that reading fosters imagination, expands vocabulary and provides escape. Before President Obama left office he was interviewed by Michiko Kakutani, the chief book critic for The York Times, about the role books played in his life and most especially during his presidency. He said that reading provided him with the opportunity to "slow down and get perspective" and afforded him the "ability to get into somebody else's shoes." Books were a "sustaining source of ideas and inspiration" which gave him a "renewed sense of the complexities and ambiguities of the human spirit" (2017). These next five selections do just that.


Eighteen minutes. That is the amount of time awarded to the world's leading thinkers and doers to give the "presentation of their lives" at a TED talk. TED is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, and it began 32 years ago when innovators assembled to share ideas and drive change. The topics have expanded to include health, social justice, and climate change. The organization's motto is "ideas worthy of spreading." There are now a number of forums that continue the TED concept, most notably the TED Radio Hour, a podcast by National Public Radio that uses several TED talks and broadcasts them under one central theme.


Talk Like TED, a book by Carmine Gallo, is an engaging read. Gallo recounts the most memorable and viewed TED talks and describes the strategies used by the presenters. He cleverly captures the essence and nuances of the presenters he describes in his book. Common practices that are highlighted include speaking with conviction, storytelling with passion, creating the big picture first, organizing the message using the golden rule of three, incorporating humor, and sticking to the 18-minute rule of content. Gallo asserts that "how you think-the confidence that you have in your expertise, the passion you have for your topic-directly impacts your communication presence" (p. 36). Orientation and continuing education programs are noted as "unproductive time" in staffing reports in most healthcare facilities. Imagine what could happen if we, as educators, were able to demonstrate that every 18 minutes a learner was introduced to something new and energized to use that new knowledge to heal, teach, and promote safety. The term unproductive would no longer be applicable!


Daniel Pink's book, A Whole New Mind-Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future, is affirmation for all right-brain dominant individuals who are struggling to fit into a left-brain dominant work environment. The book was first published in 2005, and many of Pink's predictions are coming to fruition. In his introduction, Pink espouses the virtues of right brain thinking this way, "[horizontal ellipsis]the left-brain capabilities that powered the Information Age-are necessary but no longer efficient. And the capabilities we once disdained or thought frivolous-the qualities of inventiveness, empathy, joyfulness, and meaning-increasingly will determines who flourishes and who flounders" (p. 3). Just as we spend time acquiring knowledge, making inferences, and practicing discernment to provide safe and effective care, it is equally important to make time to share stories, to laugh with family and friends, and to dream so that we can offer our patients our most authentic and empathic selves. When we, as nursing professional development practitioners, model these behaviors with our learners and colleagues, we are unknowingly giving permission to others to emulate us.


Pink describes six attributes that should be acknowledged and fostered: design, story, symphony (synthesis), empathy, play, and meaning. Pink devotes an entire chapter to the importance of empathy and suggests that it is an ethos for living. He also singles out the nursing profession as critical to the success of the conceptual age. "Nurses do much more than empathize, of course. But the sort of emotionally intelligent work they often provide is precisely the sort of thing that's impossible to outsource or automate" (p. 171).


Cultural thinker and writer Roman Krznaric opens Chapter 4 of his book Empathy by stating "we are currently facing a crisis of conversation" (p. 98). This book, which is devoted to the examination of empathy, holds answers to building and nurturing relationships. He shares the stories of "pioneering empathists," individuals who devoted their lives to stepping into the shoes of others. Kzarnic uncovered six attributes of these individuals. Each person was curious about total strangers; they listened with complete abandonment of their own thoughts, were emotionally vulnerable, creative, and courageous, and expressed concern for others.


In addition to showcasing remarkable individuals, Krznaric provides sobering facts: One in four individuals suffer from loneliness; there is a dramatic decline in empathy levels among young Americans; and the more affluent an individual is, the less empathic he or she is likely to be. These statements, though discouraging, can call us to action. We can be more mindful of the statements we use to welcome new nurses and colleagues into our organizations and acknowledge their worries about "fitting in." We can be intentional about the feedforward we use to teach, inspire, and affirm. We can be silent and listen to the anxieties and fears that are expressed and imagine what it is like to be new, embarking on a new career or transitioning to a new specialty. We can display courage by advocating on new nurses' behalf when others may be judgmental and impatient. We can use our empathic skills to use every minute of orientation to feel into the experience of our new staff.


When Breathe Becomes Air chronicles the life of a brilliant neurosurgery resident and writer who is diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer at the age of 36. Paul Kalanithi, who had a love of the written word, graduated with a BA and MA in English literature from Stanford University and an MPhil in history and philosophy of science from the University of Cambridge. He also earned a BA in human biology from Stanford and a medical degree from Yale University. In his book, he eloquently shares his stunning diagnosis and painful transition from revered scientist, masterful surgeon and empathic clinician to a patient confronting his own mortality.


Paul died while writing this book, and his physician wife, Lucy, wrote the epilogue describing the decisions and care he received at the end of his life. The book captures the magnificent prose of a young husband and father who had so much to give, who wanted to live and learned to die. Paul's words call us to reflect on how we are living, loving, and learning. His last words in the book are directed to his baby daughter Cady, "When you come to one of the many moments in life where you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been and done and meant to the world, do not, I pray discount that you filled a dying man's days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing." (p. 199).


The final book on the list of must-reads is entitled Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, an attorney and social justice activist. Stevenson describes his journey as a young exuberant law student to an impassioned voice for justice for the discounted and discarded by society in this memorable book. This may seem an odd selection to appear in a column about precepting nurses, but the book could not be more relevant. As our healthcare system grapples with disparities and access to care and we, as nurses, are called upon to be equal partners with physicians and other healthcare workers in redesigning health care (Institute of Medicine, 2010), it is imperative that we be conversant with the inequities of our criminal justice system and become motivated to change it.


Stevenson takes you on a trip to rural Alabama, to Chester, Pennsylvania, one of the poorest communities in that state, and to Angola Prison in Louisiana, where he introduces you to people whose legal plights appear unimaginable. Stevenson's accounts of these men and women will leave you dismayed and distraught, angered and astonished, incredulous and inspired. "The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated and the condemned[horizontal ellipsis]. An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation." (p.18). Bryan Stevenson appeared on TED talks, and his presentation is one of the most viewed in its history. His talk was one of three showcased on 60 minutes several years ago. Mr. Stevenson's rousing call to action can be viewed at


Jan Vanek, a blogger and fashion designer offered this sentiment about the arts, "You are the books you read, the films you watch, the music you listen to, the people you meet, the dreams you have, the conversation you engage in... Sit back, relax and take it all in." Then visit a book store and browse through the shelves until you locate one these books that beckons you to open the cover. Better yet, take a trip to your local library and check out one of these books. It will be time well spent. Enjoy!




Gallo C. (2014). Talk like TED: The 9 public speaking secrets of the world's top minds. New York, NY: St. Martin's Press.


Institute of Medicine. (2010). The future of nursing: Leading change, advancing health. Retrieved from[Context Link]


Janek V. (n.d.).


Kahuthani M. (2017, January 16). How Reading Nourished Obama during the White House Years. The New York Times. p. A1.


Kalanithi P. (2016). When breath becomes air. New York, NY: Random House.


Krznaric R. (2014). Empathy. New York, NY: Perigee Books.


Pink D. (2005). A whole new mind-Why right brainers will rule the future. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.


Stevenson B. (2014). Just mercy. New York, NY: Spiegel and Grau.