8 Books For Nurses That Prove Real Drama Reads Better Than Fiction

As hard as they try, TV shows can’t beat the real dramas that nurses encounter every single day. Some medical professionals have found the time (imagine that) to note their experiences and turn them into books that every nurse should make a point to read. You will laugh, you’ll even cry, but with the turn of each page, you will know that you are not the only nurse out there whose work life is much more intriguing than anything Shonda Rhimes could ever dream up.

Cooked: An Inner City Nursing Memoir by Carol Karels

A page turner from start to finish, Cooked: An Inner City Nursing Memoir”is a first-hand account of a nursing students’ view of Chicago’s Cook County Hospital in 1971. From the lack of call buttons, to the revolving door of patients, you get a real sense of what nurses went through during this time. A winner of the American Journal of Nursing 2005 Book of the Year Award, Cooked is not just an important part of nursing history, it illustrates the strength and determination that all nurses possess.

The Comfort Garden: Tales from the Trauma Unit by Laurie Barkin

A winner of the 2011 AJN Book of the Year Award, The Comfort Garden: Tales from the Trauma Unit” explores the mind of a nurse who is constantly exposed to tragedy, grief and heart break. The author, Laurie Barkin, uses her real life experiences as a psychiatric CNS at San Francisco General Hospital in order to reveal the scope of human compassion and caring at its finest. This is an especially important book to read if you doubt the positive impact you are having on the patients you are caring for.

Intensive Care: The Story of a Nurse by Echo Heron

Starting from her time as a nursing student into her first years as an emergency room and intensive care nurse, Echo Heron tells riveting stories of doctor’s incompetence, incredible heroism under fire, and those cases we know to be hopeless. With a perfect blend of humor and compassion, this single mom gives a personal account of what life is really like once you don those scrubs and wrap the stethoscope around your neck.

Think Twice! More Lessons from the ER by Brady Pregerson

The sequel to Don’t Try This at Home, Think Twice! More Lessons from the ER is more of a how to guide for staying safe and staying out of the ER. Yet nurses will appreciate the stories, told in a straight forward way to help readers (hopefully) learn from the mistakes of others. This is an illustrated book, filled with pictures that will make you laugh in surprise at times, while others will make you cringe in horror. Still, it is a good read if you want confirmation that your ER is not the only place where crazy has been known to walk through the door.

How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman

Although not directly related to nurses, How Doctors Think is definitely a useful guide for them. Now instead of trying to read their minds, you will get some great insight into the way their mind works and how you can better position yourself to have your thoughts and ideas heard. There are specific thought processes which lead to the decisions that doctors make, and now you can be privy to the forces that drive their actions and choices.

Bedlam Among the Bedpans: Humor in Nursing by Amy Y. Young

This is a compilation of over 100 creative stories as told by nurses, putting a humorous spin on those harrowing situations you may face every day. Adding to the charm and wit of Bedlam Among the Bedpans: Humor in Nursing is a scattering of fun illustrations and cartoons that go a long way in helping you learn how to laugh at your own insecurities and mishaps as a nurse.

Confessions of a Trauma Junkie by Sherry Jones

With her countless years of experience in all types of critical care situations Sherry Jones offers you a look at trauma from the patient’s point of view as well as the nurses. You’ll be captivated as you turn the pages of Confessions of a Trauma Junkie and read stories about saving lives after Hurricane Katrina and other amazing acts of bravery and heroism. This is a read that gives you an honest look at how it feels to be a nurse working the front line after a major tragedy.

Notes on Nursing by Florence Nightingale

Even though it was written over 150 years ago, Florence Nightingale’s own words about the world of nursing still resonate with the modern nurse. This should be in your bedside drawer as your go to book whenever you need a quick pick-me-up after a hard shift.

Real life dramas make for a great read, especially when you can directly relate. These medical professionals took their time and shared their stories, not only for the entertainment of other nurses, but so that each one knows they are not alone in the drama that is a nurse’s life.


  1. Thanks for all these recommendations. Can’t wait to get started reading some of these. Have been a nurse 43 years. Have been told I should write my own book.

  2. Another book that should be on this list is:

    I’m Done Crying by Louanne Ferris as told by Beth Day. A black nurse gives it to you straight—the degradation and indifference in an inner city hospital shortly after WW2.


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