Patrice Rancour's Tales From the Pager Chronicles reads like a literary/medical version of the hit television show "24." Each chapter is a vingnette which starts and ends with Rancour's pager sounding an alert, all occurring as part of a typical day for this dedicated professional nurse. Each story is different, as are Rancour's approaches to dealing with each patient as the unique individual that he/she is. And yet, there is one common thread that binds them all together—each patient trusts her and she in turn does not betray that trust. In each room, at every bedside, she is—in that moment—there for that one patient and his/her needs. Until her pager sounds off yet again.
Each vingnette is introduced by the phone call to answer a page and Rancour learning of the challenge that lies ahead. Likewise, most end with one simple line: "And that's when the pager goes off." Just as she must turn her attention to another person in need, with that simple line, she draws her readers gently away from the patient in the present story and moves them into the next.
With compassion and insight, Rancour takes her reader into the most intimate of all exchanges between nurse, patient and family. Hers is a daunting task—to help guide patients and their families through the stages of life-threatening illness and end-of-life situations.
As a nurse, she realizes that the well-being of the staff nurses is an important element to a good patient experience. As she responds to staff's calls for help with individual patients and situations, she is unwavering in her care for the staff as well.
In her introduction, Rancour lists her targeted readers: patients, caregivers, healthcare providers, and students of healthcare professions. For each one of these groups, she encourages them to read the book "as a manifesto of hope."
Rancour's job is a hectic one, but her approach is calm, intuitive, caring, and empathetic. I have been a nurse for about the same length of time as the author, and having spent more than half of my career in oncology nursing, I can validate her premise: that in caring for these precious patients the nurse not only learns how to live but also how to die—and long after the immediate need has passed, the nurse is the beneficiary of far more gifts from the patient than she ever gave.
Why write such a book, you might ask. Rancour tells her readers that she did so to give insight into the relationships of nurses and patients, to give voice to the patients for whom she cared, to explore what it means to be alive—and to face the possibility of death. In a profound statement, she reminds readers "... Hold on to your true self. Remember that you are the hero of your own life's story, and by the time you reach the end of it—for it is, after all, a short ride—you will want to be as love-worn as the Velveteen Rabbit."
Following the vingettes, there are some discussion questions for those who want to explore some of the issues in depth. And for the lay person who reads this book, there is a glossary of terms at the back of the book. As I read, I found myself wondering how non-medical people would ever know what was meant by terms such as BMT or Omaya reservoir. I was happy to find the glossary for those unfamiliar with our nursing jargon and would encourage readers to turn there if they encounter a term they do not know.
Rancour has many more tales to tell. In fact, she has written a second volume and this reviewer is off to read it right now!
Patrice Rancour, MS, RN, PMHCNS-BC has spent more than 35 years in the healthcare field. She has practiced at the bedside, taught in the classroom, and run a private practice as a consultant. A undergraduate and postgraduate of Ohio State University, Rancour is also a Certified Advanced Care Planning Facilitator and a Second Degree Reiki Therapist. She is widely published in textbooks and medical journals and has given numerous conference and symposium presentations.
Check out our interview with the author of Tales From the Pager Chronicles.
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