If you thought TV’s Nurse Jackie told it like it was, then Get Well Soon! is one hell of a revelation.
Falling into the nursing profession, Kristy Chambers has spent almost a decade working as a nurse, with patients ranging from drug addicts through cancer patients to those in Emergency. Along the way she met some wonderfully brave people. As for others, well, you’ll need to read her book to really believe it.
Chambers is a new and idiosyncratic voice in memoir writing. Her tone is dark, her humour black, but there is honesty, heart and compassion in Get Well Soon! She shows us more than ever the incredible work done by nurses and the challenges they face.
‘My quest for a career started early, when I was four years old and gave myself a haircut to see if I liked that sort of thing. I liked it plenty, but my mother did not. Much later in life, after moonlighting as a maid and enduring myriad other unsatisfying positions, I fell into nursing, the way one may fall into a pile of sheep shit at two in the morning (which I have also done).
Aged thirty, I was spat out of university with a degree in nursing and a sense of bewilderment. I was dumb with wonder: I wondered why on earth I hadn’t studied something else, like furniture design. I like chairs.
My baptism of fire in nursing was harsh, but a pointed reminder that buried beneath my foul mouth was a kind heart, and I had been given an opportunity to use it on a daily basis. I like chairs and sick people. Nursing has been both a hellride and a joyride, but brutally educational most of all.’
‘One of the most distressingly funny books I have ever read.’ Benjamin Law
Starting with stories from her high school work experience (I could totally relate. Because I am a nerd, I did three lots of work experience. Yes, three. *Cough nerd cough*) before finally launching straight into her (un)brilliant career as a nurse, Chambers takes the reader through many typical days as a nurse.
Although I had fantasies of becoming a nurse when I was around seven, this book has allowed me to make my mind up for sure, determining for sure that I will never be a nurse.
(On that topic, I really liked this article on Mamamia where they discussed career ambitions when you’re a child (and silly job titles). Because, as they say, what kid grows up wanting to be a Health Promotion Specialist or Head of Digital Innovation? A nurse is a pretty good, stock-standard thing to be when you’re a kid.)
The book is divided into chapters, each with the lead secondary character’s name – a different patient of Chambers’.
From her days on rounds as a student working up to being a fully-fledged nurse, Chambers has done it all and then some.
She moves from psyche wards to emergency rooms to hospital wings, all with a smile and sarcastic comment.
For me, this was little memoir of Chambers herself and more a series of essays about various people she came across while working.
For some that would be fine, but for me, I would have liked to see more personal development and personal stories from Chambers.
She briefly talks about a boyfriend, about how she frequently went home to drink after a particularly tough day. But that was pretty much it.
Chambers has the patient stories downpat; hilarious, touching. But I’m left wondering about her personal life, how/if nursing took a mental toll on her (aside from the drinking) and the rest of it. I wanted more.
You can’t help but love Chambers and feel for the patients, no matter how she portrays them. Brash at times sure, but always honest and always with the utmost care.
Chambers is downright hilarious, and you can’t help but snort with laughter at almost every page.
This is particularly difficult given Chambers’ subject matter, and it’s a very hard skill indeed to walk the fine line between treating someone with respect and still being funny and offending them.
Each patient was fully-formed – yet another technical skills Chambers masterfully demonstrated in such a short space (a chapter). The human race is certainly an interesting one, and Chambers has done a stellar job at pulling out all the wrinkles and warts for all to see.
One last thought: next time you design a cover, UQP, try to not put coffee stains on it. Every time I picked up the book I panicked thinking I’d stained it! (Even though I don’t drink coffee. But actually I really like the cover.)
It’s out now.
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