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Biography & Autobiography Medical

The Making of a Nurse

by (author) Tilda Shalof

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
Mar 2008
Medical, Essays, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2008
    List Price

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The bestselling author of A Nurse’s Story is back with more insider stories.

Tilda Shalof has been a caregiver all her life — at home for her family, at work for strangers — but her skills didn’t come easily. From when she was a child taking care of her sick parents to her current position on an ICU team in one of Canada’s largest hospitals, there have always been daunting challenges and worthy rewards for her work. With her trademark humour, unflinching honesty, and skilled storytelling, Shalof describes her experiences becoming the capable nurse she is today.

After graduation from nurse’s college, finding no jobs in Toronto, Shalof travelled to Tel Aviv, Israel, to work in a hospital for the first time, finding adventure and young love in the process. A summer stint as a camp nurse came with requests for condoms, strange allergies (“Misty has reactions, but we don’t know to what”), and overly protective parents (also known as “helicopter parents” for their tendency to hover over their children). The Making of a Nurse contains these stories and much more, and they are comforting, entertaining, shocking, funny, heart-warming and heart-wrenching. From hospitals to home care, they will give readers a glimpse into the life of a nurse and the hidden medical world.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Tilda Shalof is an intensive care unit nurse with twenty years of experience in Israel, New York, and Canada. Her first book, A Nurse’s Story: Life, Death, and In-Between in an Intensive Care Unit, was a bestseller that received rave reviews. She lives with her husband and two sons in Toronto.

Excerpt: The Making of a Nurse (by (author) Tilda Shalof)

My patient’s name is Joe, or so he says, and I am his nurse. His chart states his name as Zbigniew Zwiezynskow and under place of residence, there is merely a sad trio of letters: NFA — “no fixed address.” He’s in his mid-forties, admitted last night to the Intensive Care Unit, the ICU, with pneumonia. He’s feverish, delirious, and so violent that he may try to kill me if I decide to release him from the restraints we’ve placed on his arms and legs. Medically, his condition is improving — no small thing here in the ICU, where all of the patients have life-threatening, catastrophic illnesses. We’re full; each of our twenty-two beds is occupied. Attached to every patient are monitors, machines, and equipment and in every room there are sickening odours and horrific sights, but I hardly notice these things any more. I have learned how to go beyond it all, to see through it, push it gently aside and go straight to the person lying there in the bed.

Today, all day, Joe is my patient. His heartbeats, urine output, breaths, cough, skin, dirty fingernails, and wild, greasy hair are all my concern. I will enter his world and for the next twelve hours, minute by minute, I will dwell with him there.
It’s taken me such a long time to get here.
The sheer math astounds me. Since becoming a nurse in 1983, I have put in thousands of twelve-hour shifts at many different hospitals. I have worked with thousands of nurses and hundreds of doctors and other professionals. I have taken care of tens of thousands of patients ranging in age from eight to 104 who have had a multitude of diseases, illnesses, and injuries, and have administered to them a sea of intravenous fluids, rivers of syrups, suspensions, injectable medications, and at least a million pills, capsules, and tablets. Researchers study large populations, searching for patterns and trends, but the only way I know how to practise as a nurse is one patient at a time, seeing each individual in my care through illness, loss, pain, grief, or the prospect of death. For me, each time, the numbers all come down to one. As a nurse, there is the patient I am caring for and together, we proceed, one on one, side by side.

It wasn’t always like this. Even though I was practically born a nurse, with strong instincts to help others, I was raw and unskilled; I had to be made into one. But long before it became my livelihood, taking care of others was my way of life. You could say I practised as an amateur for many years before going professional. My mother was my first patient and I cannot recall a time when I did not know it was my job to be her nurse. I was six years old when she first became ill, but as my father always said, I was very mature for my age.

Editorial Reviews

Grey’s Anatomy should be so compelling. . . . The book, a follow-up to her first effort, the bestselling A Nurse's Story: Life, Death, and In-Between in an Intensive Care Unit, seems intended to answer two questions that pester the career nurse: How did you choose that profession? And why have you stuck it out for so long? Marshalling her considerable charm, a knack for vivid images and a crash cart jammed with real-life stories, Shalof fashions answers that are nuanced and often heart-wrenching.”
— Globe and Mail

“The book is an enthralling marriage of drama and introspection, narrative and analysis that never flags and never loses the reader’s attention. . . . Much of The Making of a Nurse reads with a crackling vitality, an as-it-happens energy that captures the intensity of the environment and her work, a world in which ‘another day at the office’ is an ongoing confrontation with illness and death.”
— The Gazette (Montreal)

The Making of a Nurse should find a variety of readers: readers of memoir, nurses, those seeking a good story all will find much to savour here. One hopes, though, it will find readers among people seeking a way to find meaning in their lives, a way to put their caring and patience to good use. It is comforting to know that there are nurses (and writers) like Tilda Shalof out there; would that there were more like her.”
— Ottawa Citizen

Praise for A Nurse’s Story:

“A cracking good read. . . .”
Quill & Quire

“There are genuinely heart-rending, disturbing and thought-provoking stories to be found in the pages of A Nurse’s Story. If this book doesn’t give you pause, you’re made of stone.”
Edmonton Journal

“[It is] difficult to put down, so compelling and beautifully written are these stories. . . . Shalof’s stories are naked and vulnerable.”
Winnipeg Free Press

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