The Language of Kindness by Christie Watson is a memoir of 20 years of nursing in the UK. Rather than following a specific timeline the book is a collection of facts and personal experiences of working as a nurse in different areas and capacities. It is divided up into chapters that walk us through different areas of a hospital/different types of nursing. A junior mental health nurse, a senior nurse on the PICU, helping out on the elderly care ward, letting another nurse care for her father so that she can grieve as a daughter... The Language of Kindness is a beautifully written story of nursing: the good, the terrible, and the day to day. I love how Watson balances fact, her own personal experiences, and general nursing history and stories, in the narrative. It makes you feel like you are in the hospital yourself with her.
The Language of Kindness is a brilliant insight into healthcare but also society as a whole (Watson’s remarks on the importance of challenging institutionalized racism in mental health care for example, or on how our elders are often abandoned and left in the care of strangers). I like how Watson interweaves information on differences between the UK and the US, it helps provide reference for the US reader too.
I absolutely loved all of the tiny pieces of information, the anecdotes, that you learn through-out the book. For example, drinking sweet tea in times of grief or trauma? It’s actually medically beneficial, not just a calming gesture! The nurse practice of reflective journaling was really interesting to learn about - it’s something I do in my daily life as a writer and it made complete sense to me that a nurse would find it very helpful too. All of the information on the NICU and PICU really hit me hard, as well as the terribly sad stories of neglected children and elderly people.
Watson’s tone is matter of fact but compassionate and caring, just like most of the wonderful nurses that I have had the pleasure of knowing in my life. I think she describes a nurse’s profession so well: always observant, knowing, understanding, and finding the right words at the right time. The Language of Kindness certainly made me sit up straight and aim to make a better effort to live, love, and care harder than I already do.
The Language of Kindness will be published on May 8, 2018 by Crown Publishing. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy!