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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Becoming a Nurse: In Mid-twentieth Century America is a nonfiction memoir written by Nancy Greenleaf. Greenleaf wasn’t really quite sure how her decision to go into nursing actually came to be. It was 1955, and she had been blindsided by her boyfriend’s confession that he was getting back with her predecessor and breaking up with her. Greenleaf airily shared her growing discontent with university and newly discovered interest in nursing. She knew her mom would not be happy with that career move; she was set on her daughter getting a college education, but Greenleaf’s friend had just applied to a nursing school and her sister, Ann, was a nurse. Things were different then. Many, Greenleaf’s dad included, felt university was wasted on young women, who’d only end up having a family. But when Greenleaf learned that her dad had lost his job, she started seriously considering her airy pronouncement about going into nursing. Nursing school would cost a lot less money than university, and nursing jobs were there for the taking.
Nancy Greenleaf’s nonfiction memoir, Becoming a Nurse: In Mid-twentieth Century America, is a beautifully written and engaging story about the author’s experiences as a student in nursing school and afterwards. She gives the reader a snapshot image of the very paternalistic society of 1950s America, and the in loco parentis manner in which nursing students were supervised and treated by nursing schools is fairly unbelievable by today’s standards. Her memoir answered a lot of questions I’ve always had about the motivation young women have for getting into the nursing profession. It had always seemed a very demanding and difficult profession that didn’t always get the respect or recompense it deserved. Greenleaf’s story clued me into the first-line aspect of nursing vis-a-vis patient care and helped me understand the historical basis of nursing and its progression from women’s early roles in caring for their families. I learned so much from reading this book, and I’m hoping to read more by this inspiring author. Becoming a Nurse: In Mid-twentieth Century America is most highly recommended.