1. Dougherty, Molly C. RN, PhD

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In her new book*Suzanne Gordon (2005) explores how to change the odds to favor nurses delivering care to sick and vulnerable human beings. As a journalist she uses a wide range of information to depict the environment of hospital nursing, address the challenges we face and describe the influences on public and professional images of nursing.


Accurate images of nursing require the portrayal of complex human interactions. To my chagrin as a nursing research journal editor, I admit that research does not seem to be the best medium for this. Research demands detailed, concrete facts. Fiction delivers finely textured experiences that can portray nursing accurately. Read fiction. In works of fiction the quiet drama of social exchange between nurse and patient is displayed. In The world I made for her, Moran (1998) gives us James who lingers at the edges of consciousness and Nuala (RN) whose words and deeds pull him toward awareness. The reader is invited to see the value of a nurse to a vulnerable person when his/her impact is often life changing. The crux of nursing is in the therapeutic alliance that the nurse forges and its power with a vulnerable person at a critical moment. In Wit, Susie (RN) precisely meets very sick Vivian's concerns (Edson, 1993). The nurse shapes the patient's experience when despair is replaced by hope or courage. Berg's (1994, 1995, 2001) nuanced novels bring well rounded nurses to life in realistic situations.


Qualitative research reports often show the experiences of nurses and patients and disclose the intricacies of the nurse-patient relationship. They are a central component of our literature. In qualitative studies the researcher is often the observer who stands back and serves as an interpreter. In fiction the reader is in the private encounter created by the invisible writer. We see that the importance of nursing is in the connection that the nurse develops and uses at crucial moments. Fiction presents the experience to the reader.


The impact of nursing in the real world is enormous. But, Gordon is correct in stating that the nurse seldom gains headlines in a marketplace where several image-conscious professions compete for attention. Selected works of fiction unveil the value of nursing and I urge you to encourage patients, friends, prospective students, and others to read it. Fiction provides a way to understand how nurses connect with patients and uses that connection to urge them toward recovery or whatever experiences their futures hold.




Berg, E. (1994). Talk before sleep. New York: Random House. [Context Link]


Berg, E. (1995). Range of motion. New York: Random House. [Context Link]


Berg, E. (2001). Never change. New York: Random House. [Context Link]


Edson, M. (1993). Wit. New York: Dramatists Play Service. [Context Link]


Gordon, S. (2005). Nursing against the odds: How health care cost cutting, media stereotypes and medical hubris undermine nurses and patient care. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. [Context Link]


Moran, T. (1998). The world I made for her. New York: Riverhead Books. [Context Link]


*Available in bookstores mid-April 2005. [Context Link]