Tilda Shalof is a Toronto-based ICU nurse who combines critical care nursing with a very successful writing career. Shalof has authored more than five books, including the best-seller A Nurse’s Story.  All of her books explore an aspect of nursing, from critical care to camp nursing to being a cardiac patient herself. I have often found myself devouring her latest work in a single sitting as her writing is conversational and very engaging.

In her most recent work, Bringing it Home – A Nurse discovers health care beyond the hospital, Shalof was commissioned by the Victoria Order of Nurses (VON) to take a tour of some of the home care services they provide across the country. This fascinating and sometimes poignant road diary left me in awe of these invisible and unsung nurses who work with the most neglected members of society. Shalof herself begins the book by candidly confessing that at first, she lacked enthusiasm for this assignment and had to be convinced to take it on. I mean, let’s be honest, for an ICU nurse, home care nursing is not high up on the list of sexiest jobs! But over time, Shalof’s eyes are opened and she concludes her road trip with a new appreciation for the crucial role these nurses play in supporting all of us, at one point in our lives.

Shalof contrast what she sees daily in hospitals to what she witnessed in home care:

There are so many things that still make no sense to me in the hospital. like the waste we create and the excessive use of technology; the restricted visiting hours and the no-pet policy. The fact that patients aren’t invited to participate in team rounds about their own care. Why aren’t people allowed – no, encouraged, to read their own charts? […] Why are there nurses and doctors who don’t talk kindly – or at times even courteously – to patients, or who can’t find it in themselves to sit down and simply listen to what the patient has to say? […] Why is there so much waiting in hospitals, and if you do have to wait, why can’t someone come out and tell you why and how much longer you’ll still have to wait, and maybe even do it with a smile? […] in all of my travels outside the hospital, in all of my visits to homes, clinics, community centres, I saw patient care that was governed by logic, fairness and common sense, administered with kindness and goodwill – not to mention fiscal responsibility and restraint. More please.

This book presents a stark account of the realities of ageing for some many patients who do not have money, or family to care for them. It also highlights a whole host of skills and duties that most of us would not associate with VON: street outreach, pregnancy support, drug and alcohol support and many other invisible acts of kindness and assistance.

Kudos to Tilda Shalof for showing us the beautiful side of these talented, compassionate nurses.