Nurses are good people. Or at least that’s what the cross-stitch that hung above our bathroom sink when I was a girl claimed, made by my mother, a nurse. But it’s true. Theirs is a sympathetic touch with no-nonsense advice attached, and when you get to know the sorts of things nurses have to look at and smell, have to poke at and dig through and clean up and assess, you understand how they’re able, intuitively, to touch your arm in the warmest way while telling you what not to do next time.
Comedian and Adelaide nurse Georgie Carroll has seen it all, as they famously say in the medical world, and shares the best and worst of it in her vastly entertaining Off the Charts, a rollicking book written for nurses, for those who love nurses and for those who need nurses, so pretty much everyone.
Most nurses can attest to being born carers. As a child, Manchester-born Carroll stuck close to her epileptic friend even when that friend weed her pants during a “tizwa” – a word the two made up for “seizure”. Carroll weed her pants, too, so her friend wouldn’t feel bad when she came to. Like many others in the book, the story is touchingly funny, so prepare to really like the author. She writes with a true sense of generosity, a handful of bad words and tons of laughable anecdotes.
Off the Charts is a book of very short personal essays in which Carroll takes you inside a hospital and makes sure that you understand, “Like earlobes, fingerprints and twats, each nurse is unique”.
She imparts knowledge only someone armpits-deep in the healthcare industry can, like this little titbit: “Addiction is a disease as worthy of compassion and treatment as any other disease up to and including Bieber fever.”
She gives us the practical, important stuff: like that DNR stands for Do Not Resuscitate, FOS is Few Observable Symptoms and PFO means Pissed, Fell Over. And if reading about induced comas and catheters isn’t enough, there’s plenty of Carroll-as-mother and Carroll-as-partner to offer a few breathers, because nurses nurse those nearest and dearest to them, as well.
I wondered if she went too far on occasion in this nurse’s tell-all by bringing in tales that lose the medical focus, but then they add to Carroll’s character, both the one we’ve seen on Have You Been Paying Attention and the one we don’t see, who has a job outside of comedy, a family and friends and, yes, listens to Justin Bieber.
Off the Charts is full-hearted and occasionally daring, an effortless read and absolutely, yes, just what the doctor ordered.
Off the Charts by Georgie Carroll is published by Pan Macmillan.
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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.