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Reading great nurse novels is a good way of relieving stress and boosting your motivation at work. Some nursing schools even recommend a reading list before starting clinical rotations. There are many novels written about the life of nurses that nurses can relate with.
If you are looking for a good read, here is a list of the greatest fiction novels about nurses. Pick your choice of book and enrich your mind with a great nursing story.
Note: Clicking on the title brings you to the book description on Goodreads, while clicking on the book cover brings you to Amazon (if you are interested in purchasing). Goodreads is a good place to see other reader reviews and author information.
1. Cherry Ames, Student Nurse by Helen Wells
Cherry Ames, Student Nurse is the first book in the Cherry Ames Nursing Series. In this book, Cherry Ames is a promising student nurse in the pre-war time era. Because of too many nurses going to the war front, the shortage of nurses made Cherry and her classmates fill the demand for nursing care in their training hospital.
Cherry’s adventurous personality helps her solve mysteries at work. Along with her passion for nursing, she grows from a student nurse to a fully qualified RN. It’s an inspiring novel for those who are thinking of pursing nursing.
Trivia: The Cherry Ames Nursing Series is composed of 20 books. The books were published between 1940s and 1960s. During this time, there was a shortage of nurses throughout the US and the publication of these books helped the nursing community to inspire more students to enter the nursing profession.
2. The Healer’s War by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
The Healer’s War is set in the Vietnam War era where Lt. Kitty McCulley faces the challenges of being a nurse amidst the turmoil of war. McCulley deals with the overt racism of her colleagues as they provide care to injured soldiers and Vietnamese civilians at the China Beach medical facilities.
As she continues dealing with the challenges of her work, she gets an amulet from a dying Vietnamese holy man. This amulet makes her see other people’s auras and leads her to an incredible journey in a war-torn jungle.
This novel will make you understand a nurse’s perspective about war and how it can change your priorities.
Trivia: The author of The Healer’s War, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, was actually a nurse in Vietnam during the wartime period. Her experiences during that time inspired the insights in her novel.
Also Read: 10 Best Nursing Journals Every Nurse Should Subscribe To
3. Lions and Tigers and Nurses by Amy Glenn Vega
Lions and Tigers and Nurses reflects the clashes in the workplace of nurses nowadays.
Haylie Evans, a fresh graduate nurse, is excited to be part of Med-Surg South. Soon enough, she learns the meaning of the expression “Nurses eat their young” as she gets assigned to a terror senior nurse preceptor.
The issues tackled in this novel depict real-life problems of new nurses as they experience lateral violence at their work. This book shows how generational and personality differences can make an impact on workplace professional relationships.
Trivia: Lions and Tigers and Nurses is a well-known educational nurse novel used in schools. Once you finish reading the book, you are eligible to receive 3 contact hours of CNE.
4. The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
The year is 1859 and Lib Wright, an English nurse, is summoned to a small rural village in the Irish Midlands. There she finds a mystery that people cannot comprehend whether a medical anomaly or a miracle. Eleven year old Anna O’Donnell has survived for a month with no food. Anna believes she is living off manna from heaven and tourists and a journalist are flocking to the Wonder.
The Wonder book will not be everybody’s cup of tea. However, if you like slow, atmospheric tales steeped in mystery, you will come to love this haunting and moving story.
5. The Orange Tree by Martin R. Ganzglass
The Orange Tree features the unlikely friendship of an old Jewish lady and her young Somali nurse. Their age and cultural differences make a special bond of relationship as they tackle their troubled pasts and present situations.
Different perspectives of past and present cultures are presented well in the novel. Most importantly, the problems of American families coping with their elderly are timely issues featured in this book.
Trivia: The author of The Orange Tree is a Board Member of the Somali American Community Association. He served in the Peace Corps as a legal advisor to the Somali National Police Force between 1966 and 1968. His experiences during these times provided inspiration in writing the novel.
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6. No Other Medicine by Gail Ghigna Hallas RN PhD
No Other Medicine is a realistic novel that reflects the healthcare corruption in hospitals nowadays. The novel’s story dates back to 1973. It is filled with suspense and courtroom drama as different cases of exploitations in the healthcare system jeopardize the health of the main characters.
The author accurately portrays the real-life situation of America’s healthcare system where corporate greed and corruption directly affect healthcare professionals and patients. The novel is easy to understand so that even readers without medical background can keep up with the story and learn more about the medical world.
Trivia: The author of No Other Medicine, Gail Ghigna Hallas RN PhD is a registered nurse. She gained inspiration in writing the novel from her own experiences in her nursing career. Many reviews about the novel hailed it as a realistic portrayal of present day’s problems in the healthcare system.
7. Poor Mrs. Rigby by Kathy Herman
Poor Mrs. Rigby is a novel about 90-year old Elsie Rigsby and her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Sally Cox. The story took place in a nursing home where Cox first worked after becoming a CNA.
Mrs. Rigsby fakes dementia to hide her fortunes from being discovered by her son and grandson. Soon enough, Cox learns the truth about Mrs. Rigsby’s secret and she is torn between fulfilling her faith and satisfying her greed. The book provides a valuable lesson about setting priorities and following one’s moral compass.
Trivia: Katy Herman, the author of Poor Mrs. Rigby, is in the Christian publishing industry for many years. Her novels revolved around mysteries with incorporated teachings from Christian scriptures.
8. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is a bold and shattering novel that became popular in the 1960’s. The story revolves around an asylum where tyrannical Big Nurse Ratched encounters Randle Patrick McMurphy, the new inmate that opposes her. McMurphy’s rebellious ways clash with Big Nurse Ratched’s totalitarian authority. Their clash became a duel of madness and sanity.
Since One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is a mental patient’s point of view, you can feel the roller coaster of emotions patients experience while inside an asylum. It is a recommended read if you are going to be rotated in a mental health facility.
Trivia: This is Ken Kesey’s first novel. He gained inspiration in writing the novel from his own experiences. He tested mind-altering drugs for the federal government and he worked as a nurse’s aide in the same facility afterwards. He also drew haunting sketches during his work as a nurse’s aide and these illustrations are featured in some of his published books.
9. The Glory Cloak: A Novel of Louisa May Alcott and Clara Barton by Patricia O’Brien
The Glory Cloak: A Novel of Louisa May Alcott and Clara Barton is a fictional novel about what may have happened if Louisa May Alcott and Clara Barton met during the Civil War era. Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women, is a volunteer nurse. Together with her cousin Susan Gray, they meet Clara Barton and form remarkable friendships altogether.
Historic events unfold in the novel like Lincoln’s appointment of Clara Barton in finding and naming the war’s missing and dead, as well as Louisa May Alcott’s fame in writing the novel Little Women. It’s a great read for those who are wondering about the life of nurses during the Civil War era.
Trivia: The Glory Cloak features an Afterward section where the author discusses the fictional versus the non-fictional parts of the book.
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10. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
The English Patient is a poetic tale of four damaged lives in an abandoned Italian villa. The story takes place at the end of World War II. Hana, a Canadian nurse, refuses to leave her last surviving patient despite receiving orders to vacate. She is taking care of a badly burned man only known as the English patient. She is joined by Caravaggio, a mysterious thief, and Kip, an Indian bomb disarmer loyal to the British army.
The English Patient features a beautiful and unforgettable story that will leave a cut in your heart. Hana’s perseverance and passion despite the odds will make you proud of being a nurse.
Trivia: The novel won Booker Prize and was made into a movie. The novel is lyrically expressive since the author, Michael Ondaatje, is not only a novelist but also a poet.
And that’s our list! Is there any book that tickled your fancy from the nurse novels above?
If we missed other nursing novels, please do share your favorite picks with us in our FB page!