book reviews

A review of Hurry Up Nurse: London Calling, by Dawn Brookes

A week ago, I reviewed a book by retired British nurse Dawn Brookes called Hurry Up Nurse: Memoirs of Nurse Training in the 1970s. When I downloaded that book, I didn’t realize that Brookes had written two sequels. Although her first book didn’t blow me away, I was entertained enough by it to purchase the two follow-ups. They weren’t very expensive and I have plenty of time for reading.

Last night, I finished Brookes’ second book in this series, Hurry Up Nurse: London Calling. As I mentioned in the first review, Dawn Brookes began a long nursing career in the late 1970s, when she was just eighteen years old. Her training occurred under a now obsolete program in which would be nurses could enroll for classes to get basic skills for the job. Britain’s nursing training program has since changed significantly, making Brookes’ story somewhat more interesting, since she was trained in a way that today’s nurses wouldn’t be.

Dawn Brookes’ second book is about her specialist’s training at London Chest Hospital, which she completed after she finished her basic training in her hometown of Leicester. Her instructors in Leicester had recommended that Brookes go on to specialize, since she had a knack for nursing. Brookes explains that she had initially gotten into nursing because she couldn’t decide what to do with her life. It was a lucky stab in the dark, because she found that she enjoyed taking care of people. Nevertheless, the job had its unpleasant realities, which she confronted head on at London Chest Hospital. For instance, one of her duties was to collect sputum samples and check them for signs of disease. It was a duty that no one relished.

Brookes writes that she lived in the “nurse’s home” at the hospital, along with lots of other young students. I got a kick out of reading about one of her colleagues, a young woman named Jen who came from Stornoway. I was just in Stornoway, a picturesque town in northern Scotland, just a few months ago. Brookes hadn’t known where Stornoway was until she befriended Jen.

The nurse’s home was basically a dorm. The students were paid a pittance, and Dawn Brookes soon discovered that her desire to have fun and eat well was eating up too much of her pay. She loved living in London, though, and found it easy to find shifts at agencies, which paid well and helped her supplement her income. Brookes also enjoyed smoking, but after working at the chest hospital, she discovered what happens when people smoke too much and eventually gave up the habit.

Included in the second volume are stories about some of Brookes’ more memorable patients, people with lung cancer, cystic fibrosis, and those who needed complicated surgeries. Brookes doesn’t go into deep detail about any of these cases; she mainly includes anecdotes that kind of scratch the surface. Some of the anecdotes are funny, and some are poignant and sad. She includes stories about some of her more memorable teachers, including one who berated her for considering taking a better paid job at a private hospital. Brookes explains that the London Chest Hospital had taken her on, even though she hadn’t really met their usual requirements. But her teachers said she had “ward sister” potential– again, kind of a mystery for most of us American readers– but I guess that means they spotted her leadership potential.

I thought this book was a decent read, though once again, I was left surprised by a very abrupt ending and an invitation to read book 3, which I started last night. Most of my comments about this book are the same as they were for the first book. There’s some terminology that may be unfamiliar to those who aren’t from Britain, although if you are inclined to look up words you don’t know, that could be educational. I wasn’t prepared for the ending to come as soon as it did. I guess that’s a hazard of reading on Kindle rather than an actual book. Nurses may find this a fun read, particularly those from Britain who may have some understanding of context. Brookes seems like a very nice person and her “voice” is pleasing. I just think she’d have done better with an editor who could help make her books flow more and end more gently. Still, if you’ve read the first book, I think the second one is also worth the effort.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon from purchases made through my site.