Book Reviews - Nurse: A World of Care

March-April 2009


NURSE: A World of Care
By Peter Jaret, Karen Kasmauski and Maria Salmon
Emory University, Atlanta, 2008; 240pp., $29.95

NURSE: A World of Care is a notable volume for its extraordinarily beautiful photographs and poignant text that communicate the historic journey of nursing care and contemporary issues facing the profession around the globe. Author Peter Jaret, an award-winning health reporter whose work has appeared in several national newspapers and magazines, once again joined forces with esteemed photographer Karen Kasmauski, who has captured imagery on global health issues for National Geographic. In a previous collaboration as co-authors of Impact: From the Frontlines of Global Health, the pair was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2003. The third collaborator on NURSE: A World of Care is senior editor Dr. Marla Salmon, who is the dean of Emory University's Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, a professor in nursing and public health and director of the university's Lillian Carter Center for International Nursing. Previously, she served as director of the Division of Nursing at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and participated as a member of the White House Taskforce on Healthcare Reform and a consultant to the World Health Organization.

With this distinguished trio of authors, NURSE: A World of Care is truly a celebration of nursing throughout its long history.

Photographs support the chapters covering the development of the profession, the complexity of nursing research, the worldwide crisis of the nursing shortage and the future issues that nurses will be facing. Woven through the text are sections that highlight nursing practice in a variety of settings from intensive care units in the United States to the compassionate care of elders in Japan to the work of Sister Isolena with a native community in northeastern Venezuela. Nurses are portrayed in hospitals, clinics, homes, birthing centers, hospices, schools, country roads and on the U.S.-Mexico border. Antarctica is the only continent omitted as a setting for nursing practice. The essential work of nurse administrators is highlighted, along with the work of organizations such as the International Council of Nurses, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Lillian Carter Center for International Nursing. Innovative methods used to solve the contemporary global nursing shortage are also described.

Contributions of male nurses receive special attention. Men are depicted providing care in Haiti and in several African countries. AIDS activist Bobbi Campbell is mentioned with his important early work to warn the gay community in San Francisco about the new disease killing young people. Plus, the text highlights such famed nursing practitioners as Walt Whitman, Louisa May Alcott and Lillian Carter, the mother of former President Jimmy Carter (Fittingly, the 39th president wrote the book's foreword).

Although NURSE: A World of Care depicts the tenderness of nursing care, it avoids sugarcoating contemporary challenges that nurses face. In many ways, this text can have a restorative effect by helping those caught up in the day-to-day challenges of the profession to take a step back and gain perspective on the profession and its positive effect throughout the world. The photographs capture a vast range of practice settings, and the description of nursing development throughout many countries demonstrates the strength of the profession. For retired nurses, the photographs and text can facilitate looking back on a career of true value to oneself and others. A retired nurse may be reminded of patients from many years past, or of former health care team members and professional colleagues.

For families and friends of nurses, NURSE: A World of Care can aid understanding of what it is that draws their friends or loved ones to spend the hours studying, sacrificing and working in their careers. Readers outside the profession can gain insight into the multi-faceted world of nursing. As the editor states, "There will come a time when practically every one of us will depend on the care of a nurse."

As an experienced nurse, I gained a fresh appreciation of the world of nursing from this book and was reminded of the multi-layered reasons I decided to enter the profession: the caring for others, the continually changing science and technology, the focus on maintaining or restoring health, the focus on end of life, and the other factors that must be considered in provision of nursing care. The many photos of nursing students made me think of the students I now teach at Saint Louis University.

It is a true honor to be teaching after many years of practice in the nursing profession, and NURSE: A World of Care helped me reflect on the powerful impact that nurses have on people and on their communities. I am at once deeply proud and humbled to be part of this group of remarkable people.

Dr. Leander is assistant professor, nursing, Saint Louis University, St. Louis.

Books In Brief

That They May be One: Catholic Social Teaching on Racism, Tribalism and Xenophobia
Orbis Books, 2009; 250 pages

Dawn M. Nothwehr, a Franciscan sister and associate professor of ethics at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, discovered a literature gap when preparing to teach a seminar on the ethics of power and racism. Unable to find readily accessible resources that addressed the topic from a global as well as a Catholic perspective, she compiled this useful text. The need, she writes, derives from the growing diversity in our own country, heated battles of law and conscience related to immigration and, via the news media, the sometimes uncomfortable closeness of people who hate our way of life make it incumbent on us to draw on church teaching as a guide for forming our own consciences. Sr. Nothwehr points out that, while it is politically, and often morally incorrect in our society to voice race-based sentiments, we need only recall 9/11 to recognize how easily racial passions can be aroused. Racism is more often, though, hidden from public view, just as our own subtle forms of racism may remain hidden from ourselves. The book is divided into two major parts. The first is a historical overview of the morally ambiguous ways the church has dealt with race and racism over centuries, upholding human dignity at times, justifying race-based slavery at others and — "deplorably," she contends — representing "white privilege" in the makeup of its leadership. Part Two is a compilation of church teaching on racial justice excerpted from church documents from a variety of sources, ranging from the Vatican to bishops' conferences and committees all over the world. Included, too, is a summary of doctrinal, theological and ethical teachings that provide a basis for a strong Catholic theology of racial justice. Sr. Nothwehr notes that the various documents represent various levels of "official authoritative church teaching," resulting in unevenness. (See article in this issue, "Communicating Ethics in the Name of the Church," by Fr. Lawrence G. Dunklee for a related discussion of levels of church teaching.)

God & Grace of Body: Sacrament in Ordinary
Oxford University Press, 2007; 448 pages

As has often been noted in recent decades, mainly by theologians coming forward to correct an imbalance, the relationship between matter and spirit was long neglected by dualistic theologians who tended to equate the material world — and particularly the sexual human body — with evil. But how could that be when, as scripture tells us, it's the human body that bears God's image? In a work rewarding for its specificity, David Brown considers numerous celebratory ways in which the body symbolically mediates the divine: in dancing, in feasting, in multiple forms of music from jazz to rap, in musical theater, opera and, above all, in the Eucharist. Brown's theme will be familiar to some, but he approaches the topic with fresh eyes and sets it in an accessible academic context (demonstrating that those three words need not constitute an oxymoron.) As his subtitle suggests, he rebels — his choice of verb — against separation of secular and sacred, of natural religion and revealed. Healers will especially appreciate the chapter "Healing and Presence," in which he reflects on medicine in the Christian tradition and its relationship to the Eucharist, a topic he plans to develop further in this volume's sequel. Brown is Wardlaw Professor of Theology, Aesthetics and Culture at the University of St. Andrew and Fellow of the British Academy.

Healing with Heart: Inspirations for Health Care Professionals
Moss Communications, 2008; 304 pages

Now in its second printing, this compendium of short, daily reflections co-authored by a mission leader in Catholic health care, adds up to a spirituality of the workplace that only someone in the trenches could provide. Martin Helldorfer is senior vice president for mission integration, Exempla Health Care, Denver, Colo. We find him on an elevator overhearing a conversation between two physicians in which one relates a resolution to be more attentive to patients and family. Their exchange prompts Helldorfer to recall a time when his own failure to be attentive had negative consequences for another person. On other pages, we find him behind the nurse's station, his head stubbornly bowed over charts, so he can finish his work uninterrupted by someone else's need. We find him as a patient himself in the operating room, where a nurse, sensing his unspoken fear, brings gratitude and relief as she places her hand on his shoulder and whispers, "I won't leave you." In these 296 reflections penned over six years as a "Thought from Mission" for his co-workers (and by no means all about himself), we encounter neither guilt trips nor pious advice. Rather, we find the sensitive observations of a man piercingly aware of his own vulnerability as he strives to live up to his own standards of Christian care. Helldorfer describes his lens in a short introduction: The work of health care is "often viewed as a job, frequently seen as ordinary," but is best seen "as a calling, with the sacred thinly veiled from view."

— Pamela Schaeffer


Copyright © 2009 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Book Reviews - Nurse-A World of Care

Copyright © 2009 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.