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Bookcase: Portrait of a Crisis

Tuesday September 30, 2008
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Safety in Numbers: Nurse-to-Patient Ratios and the Future of Health Care by Suzanne Gordon, John Buchanan, and Tanya Bretherton

Safety in Numbers, a book that examines the effectiveness of nurse-to-patient staffing ratios, is destined to become a classic in nursing literature. Gordon, an award-winning journalist and visiting professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing, along with healthcare workforce researchers Buchanan and Bretherton, dissect one of the most controversial topics in the healthcare field.

This isn't a book filled with legal jargon, complicated diagrams, or overwhelming statistics, but more of a compelling study that compares and contrasts nurse-to-patient ratios in Australia and California, where they have been mandated the longest. Using survey data and lively interviews, the authors present a broader context for the initiatives and their impact on nurses and the profession.

Safety in Numbers is a “must read” for all nurses. While the authors clearly support ratios, they also stress the existing systems are works in progress and are careful to present both sides of the argument — the nurses who work under the ratios, and the nurse managers and executives who often are still not convinced. The result is a unique book with a balanced account of a hot workplace topic, sure to affect nurses and our healthcare system for years to come.

Cornell University Press
$18.00 (hardcover)



Privileged Presence: Personal Stories of Connections in Health Care by Liz Crocker, MEd, BA, and Bev Johnson, RN, BSN

Privileged Presence, a collection of more than 50 essays, uses real-world experiences recounted by patients and their families, nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals. It's a timely book, reflecting on what works and what doesn't, what increases or diminishes people's sense of confidence and well-being. Some stories offer comfort, while others spotlight the compassion of clinicians — their courage and willingness to make a change in hospital policy or practice.

Crocker, vice president of the Institute for Family-Centered Care, whose career includes teaching, broadcasting, and writing, and Johnson, president and CEO of the institute, echo the importance of honoring the uniqueness of patients and their families.

The stories, powerful and engaging, capture the sensitivities of people's lives — their sufferings, vulnerabilities, and strengths. Readers will meet a nurse who delights in seeing her staff bring a husband and wife together, a young woman left alone in labor, and a hospital administrator dealing with the tragedy of a medical error. Privileged Presence belongs on the bookshelf of nurses, student nurses, administrators, policy makers, patients, and families — anyone who wants to be inspired.

Bull Publishing Company
$16.95 (paperback)



Terry Ratner, RN, MFA, is a freelance writer. E-mail Bookcase@nurseweek.com.