The Language of Kindness

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 02 Jun 2018

Member Reviews

This was a lovely book to read, whether you had a background in nursing, being a patient or just like down-to-earth books about someone's experiences of a particular profession.

I learnt a lot from the author Christie Watson, through the telling of her life in nursing dealing with everything from childbirth to death, from maternity to mortuary and all types of surgery, medicine and treatments dealt with in a hospital environment.  This book has reminded me that medical and nursing staff work endless hours, for a pittance at times and all because they have entered the profession because of a vocation and are there to perform healthcare and kindness to everyone.

My favourite quote of hers was from Florence Nightingale who said that "Suffering and even the sensation of pain can be reduced by kindness".  Having been a patient more than 10 times myself for spinal neurosurgeries I know that just having a window to look out of, a magazine to read, a cup of tea or even a hug or kind word can affect someone's experience of hospitals, medical staff, illness and even pain, and make you feel better and give you a brighter outlook on the rest of the day.
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The NHS is something that should be protected, but unfortunately we tend to take it and those that work in it for granted. With the slow, sneaking privatisation that’s going on at the moment, and the understaffing caused by Brexit, this is definitely a time when we should be celebrating the nurses, doctors and support staff that work so hard under some of the most stressful conditions.

This is a timely book then, well-written, packed full of really interesting historical detail and lots of real life experiences too. Some of these are hard to read, because you can feel the grief that Christie feels in these moments. And it’s lovely to read an account that actually shows what a nurse does – they don’t make the tea or put flowers in vases, you know! I admit I have a personal axe to grind. My sister has been nursing in the NHS for thirty-five years, my daughter’s first few days were spent in the neo-natal unit, one niece is a health visitor, another is a mental health nurse, and, with a son with mental health issues, I’m more than aware of how woefully underfunded and understaffed this area of the health service is. All of these wonderful women in my family are intelligent, well-trained, capable and professional, and they deserve the utmost respect. And the stories in this book show why.

Too often these types of books are sentimental and shmaltzy, and can almost feel voyeuristic – nosing in on a stranger’s grief and tragedy. This book isn’t like that at all. Christie shows great respect to the patients she has nursed and this is a fascinating book.

Emotional, but not sentimental, honest but not gratuitous, this book shows why we should value our NHS, and fight to keep it.
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Unfortunately I had to give up on reading this book as it wasn't what I was expecting. I'm sure some people would be very interested in the snippets of information regarding history of nursing or the quotes and references but personally it wasn't for me. Much too self-indulgent for my liking.
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Chatty memoir about a nurse's life and experiences which promised much but felt a bit flat overall.  Interesting to read in conjunction with the other medical memoirs that are currently popular.
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The Language of Kindness by Christie Watson draws on her 20 year nursing career from her student days where she fainted at the sight of blood to the most harrowing cases involving critically ill children or on acute mental health wards. The book celebrates the diversity of nursing and the variety of the skill set required  from the routine practical tasks to the communication skills which are not so easy to teach in a classroom. While not as overtly political as other medical memoirs, the message is clear that undervaluing nurses would be catastrophic for the health service. This is a very emotionally draining book to read but well worth the effort.
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The language of kindness is written though the eyes of a NHS nurse, reflecting on 20 years experience working in different areas of the NHS and delves into different snippets of experiences of different patients as she looks particularly at the emotions of a nurse throughout their career and their role in patient care. 

While as a health professional I enjoyed this read for the most part myself, I did find that it didn’t always flow moving between the stories of different people and possibly for someone non medical it did at times use a lot of medical terms which may not appeal to all readers. 

Many thanks to Netgalley and Random House UK, Vintage Publishing for my ARC, very much appreciated
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The Language Of Kindness: A Nurse's Story
By Christie Watson
Published by Chatto & Windus, (Hardback) May 2018, 
Published by Vintage, (Paperback) January 2019

Christie did not take the typical route into nursing. Unsure of what career she might follow, she read widely, left home and moved in with her boyfriend at sixteen and was left looking for a home and a job when her relationship quickly ended.She found both when she found a job working with handicapped youngsters with severe physical disabilities in a residential home, where she saw caring and nursing in action, and her future career was set.

Managing to get into nursing school at a younger age than normal, she then spent twenty years nursing. In this book she takes us on a tour of a hospital, its departments and staff, bringing in details about people she looked after and worked with, the variety of areas of nursing work she particularly enjoyed, while weaving in the history of nursing, hospitals and health care from before birth to after death.
It is an interesting and moving book, written with a light touch but deep compassion.
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The Language of Kindness recalls Christie Watson's 20 years of nursing within the NHS.  Beautifully written it puts personal experiences into context whilst providing a reasonable measure of medical history and explanations of some treatments..  It also explains the affect different experiences have had on her, what she learnt from them and how they helped her with, for example, building a mutual relationship with an adopted baby and coping with the death of her father (in hospital).  It describes good practice whilst acknowledging that has been some bad.  We glimpse the affect of working long hours and.of hiding person emotions from patients and relatives.  We learn about compassion, kindness, love and commitment.  Christie rightly points out that nurses want the Service to be properly resourced to enable them to provide the service required.and to be valued for what they do.  (Government and MPs please note).

This is an outstanding insight into a world we,so easily, take for granted and which we expect to be there when we need it.  Everyone would be better for taking the trouble to read this book..

Highly recommended
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In this hard hitting book Christie Watson doesn't hold back in describing many of the grimmer moments of nursing - something she practised for 20 years. If you're expecting a series of anecdotes might I suggest this isn't the book for you.  If you want lots of medical detail and an insight into the gritty reality of nursing, read on. What Christie does, is tell it as it is - no punches pulled. In spite of the sometimes uncomfortable content what shines through is the kindness of nurses who, against all the limitations of the NHS and the long hours without rest, make time to care. It left me even more proud of the nursing profession and acutely aware how vital it is they are recognised as being key to patients making a FULL recovery. Health Secretary take note - nurses really matter.
I give this book 3 stars and that is not for the content but for the writing. Excelling at nursing doesn't necessarily translate into great authorship. But, that being said, I definitely recommend reading this to remind us all of the great job nurses do every day.
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I feel I should be able to give this book more than the measly two stars I have, as Chrstie Watson does a potentially excellent job of sharing with us her 20 years of her life as a nurse in the NHS, with personal stories as well as philosophical reflections on the nature of kindness, compassion and caring and the plight of our modern NHS. 

Unfortunately, though, I just couldn’t find my way in with this book.  I felt her content was potentially very interesting and moving, and yet for me at least, she was not able to convey her stories in a way that truly touched my core.  I felt that even when writing about deep emotions and traumatic events, there was a distant objectivity about her style that made it seem like she was giving an almost report-like factual account ‘after the event’ rather than conveying the gritty impact of what must surely have moved her deeply at the time.

I couldn’t help wondering, in fact, if she might have benefited from having an expert co-author who could have translated what I am sure were her genuine emotions at the time into a form that really gripped and moved the reader.

I will have to leave it to others to decide whether that is a lack or inexperience in the author as a storyteller or in me as the listener.  However, I’m a big softie so perhaps it is neither and it is simply that we are not on the same wavelength.  I am pleased to see from other reviewers that they have enjoyed the book immensely so, while I must write honestly as I find it, clearly many have found this an excellent read.
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The language of kindness is a true story of Christie Watson and the time she spent as an NHS nurse.
She takes us through birth to death and everything in between.
This book was sensitive to the patients mentioned, it shows real humanity and kindness from the nurses and how they go out of their way to make us more comfortable at times of need when they are pushed to the limit with the amount they have to do.
We see a&e, maternity ward, cancer wards etc it really is fascinating.
This book is real and interesting and is definitely worth a read.
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An interesting read but there were a few too many technical terms and medical jargon in the narrative for my liking.Christie gives an interesting insight into working in the NHS as a nurse in different capacities and in different areas of expertise.She definately gives a very personal perspective and emphasises the changes that have occurred over time so that nursing has become a very different profession to when she started out.I can’t say that I would recommend general readers to undertake to begin this book but it would be of interest to those who wish to enter nursing or those who are in it.It is a bit of a busman’s holiday though.I liken it to those people who have to watch Casualty & Holtby City and other related TV programmes.
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Don't you think that's so true? Every single one of us will come across nursing at some time in our lives. Maybe we have been sick ourselves, maybe we need a routine check, maybe our family member has fallen ill and needs to be cared for. Maybe you just helped cradle a baby and kept her giggling whilst her mum went through the checkout in a supermarket queue. Nursing, being a nurse, showing nursing traits, is ENORMOUS and yet so very ingrained into our day to day existences. Thank goodness for those who know just where they fit in the nursing industry to do their jobs well, because the rest of us are sure as hell making it up as we go along!

What I liked so much about this account was that it showcased the beginning of a career in nursing without silly anecdotal jokes or deliberate selection of memorable stories. It is, in actuality, pretty ordinary. All of these things could probably happen in a day in the life of a nurse. Some are raw, harrowing and really showcase how a nurse may sometimes lose herself for a moment to be someone else's person for a time. 

What more can I say? We are inundated as readers with what I like to call NHS anecdotes - numerous books complaining about various positions in healthcare, or demonstrating what it's "REALLY" like to work for the NHS. You know what? Nursing is hard, exhausting and doesn't make you much of a bread winner - it's true. But my God does it make you a lifeline, and that's good enough for me. What a fantastic book to celebrate what being a nurse is all about - I'm grateful for those who can be so selfless as to care for the rest of us in our most testing moments.
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As you have probably noticed from my other posts, my interests tend to lie in fiction. However, when this book appeared on Netgalley, I was immediately drawn to the present appropriateness of what Christie Watson has written. She was an NHS nurse, and has beautifully delivered a demonstration of the power of the NHS, so supplied by the selfless employees who devote every inch of their lives to better those of the strangers around them. Christie herself moved through different hospitals, wards and departments during her time as a nurse, and with it gathered the stories of thousands of people from all around the UK.

She has forcefully immersed us within the walls of a hospital, ensuring that we don’t just understand but feel the anguish that comes with the vulnerability of being a patient. Our NHS is one of the greatest gifts of being a citizen in this country, but it is continuously abused with funding cuts, and we begrudgingly watch much of it decay as government spending finds necessity elsewhere.
What else Christie is speaking to us about is the importance of nurses themselves. Often, we dazzle the abilities and achievements of doctors, too often casting a shadow against the fundamental work of nurses. They are there before the doctor arrives, as they show, and when they leave. They are the ever present gift in a room where they are too often seen as the less important party.
“We should all be helping each other.”
“Love is the only thing that matters. Fall in love. That’s the only thing that matters, in the end. Love each other.”
Christie and her experiences caring for sick children with incurable diseases, adults with painfully exhausting illnesses and her own livelihood evoke a surreal sense of perspective. At any one given moment, we ourselves or those we love can be thrust into a situation which can bring us within an inch of death. This book is not written to scare us but rather to expand our reality.
She is day by day witnessing things many of us won’t ever have to experiences outside of watching something on the television. We have become desensitised and neutralised to our own lack of immortality. We are selfish to ourselves, and even more so to the rest of those around us. We take life as a definite when it is the one thing we have no day to day guarantee of. What tomorrow can bring cannot be written in stone today. We are constantly scribing into sand on a beach.
It is also a reminder on how fortunate many of us are at this moment. As you read this review, there are children forced to eat their own excrement as they are left to starve by those who birthed them; every two minutes, someone in the UK is diagnosed with cancer; the homelessness crisis is witnessing thousands left to fend for themselves on the street. At this moment, not being a part of this is a great blessing, but it does not mean that we should not think about those who must live this reality day in and day out.
I want to thank Christie Watson for writing of her experience as an NHS nurse, and providing the means to reflect deeply on how we all need to outstretch our hands to the rest of humanity. This is an excellent read.
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This was a different type of read to my usual, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. The stories within its pages were sometimes heartfelt, sometimes funny, and at other times emotional to read.
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The language of Kindness is based on Christie’s 20 years of working for the NHS, she now no longer works asa nurse as she has become a full-time writer. This book will ring true with anyone that as either been a patient, carer or worker in a health care sector. It explores the hardships of being a nurse, in over crowded A&E departments to training to become someone who is compassionate and delivers high standard of care, to heartbreaking situations that will always stay with you.

The books start from Christie’s training, she describes everything she sees, her feelings as she goes through the different departments and what is expected of her. It is an eye-opener into how hard the staff work at the National Health Service but also how lucky we are to have it. Throughout the years Christie works on Mental Health wards, Geriatric wards, Adult and Paediatric ITU and tells us a little story that has stuck with her over time, such as a little girl who drowned in a pool and proving that nurses are not only someone who washes or administers drugs on the rounds but be a shoulder to cry on, a counsellor for families and then to go home and try to lead a normal life.

This book is a fantastic read and recommend to anybody that likes memoirs and want an insight to the NHS and what it’s like to be a nurse. I wanted a bit more from this, I wanted her delve in to more of the serious topics of how underfunded the NHS is, the strikes and the lack of nurses. I suppose I wanted it to be more political but my view might be a minority as previously been a trainee nurse I found I could relate to a lot but found the content quite basic.
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Christine Watson twenty years of nursing is described in this fascinating book.  She has worked in a variety of situations within the NHS and, through stories of individual patients, she paints a vivid picture of the daily life of an NHS nurse.  
She does, at times, expound upon the history of nursing and I felt that this was a bit of an odd thing to include.  It felt as if she was trying to include too much and it didn’t work terribly well, particularly in the first half of the book.  There was a bit of a lack of direction although the second half was much better in terms of the interest and authenticity of the stories.
We are all, at some point, going to come into contact with nurses and their work, and this book provides a great insight into this world, from the nurse’s point of view.  It is clearly an incredibly difficult job, physically and emotionally, and we should all admire those who chose to do it.
Overall, a good read, although I think it would have benefitted from a more stringent editing.
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A fascinating insight into Christie Watson's career as a nurse, in all different departments: paediatric, oncology, and resuscitation, to name a few. She emphasises what is really needed as a nurse: compassion, and love.

Such touching and wonderful anecdotes are woven in and out of this memoir, reducing me to tears more than once and reminding me - as all UK medical memoirs do - how very lucky we are to have the NHS.

My one issue would be that sometimes the writing was a little stilted. I could have read a million more anecdotes, but (as useful as this was for my dissertation!) I could have done with less of the medical history and the general description of the wards.
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Before becoming a successful novelist, Watson spent 20 years as a nurse, and her vast experience informs this memoir. She escorts readers through the hospital wards she’s been assigned to, attests to the work-related trauma that threatened her personal spirit, and celebrates the return on her investment in a nursing career. As a teenager in Britain, Watson stumbled onto nursing courses, found her niche, and never looked back. Her first year as a nursing student proved harrowing, and she describes her attempt to save the life of a newly discovered suicide victim on the floor of his room. This event prompts commentary on frustrating governmental cuts in health care that she believes are crippling critical mental health and social service programs. Written with warmth and a sense of empathy for her patients, the memoir flows through episodes early in her nursing career when she shadowed a midwife through labor and delivery, trained in a pediatric intensive care unit, soothed a child with aggressive brain cancer, and comforted an elderly widow complaining of chest pain but whose appearance and symptoms more directly pointed to a broken heart. Watson also sorrowfully chronicles her own father’s death “in slow motion” in a cancer ward and the palliative nurse who made a lasting final impression on his life. As she notes, the author’s nursing career also had its softer, kinder edges, but her graphic descriptions of operating room procedures and the eye-watering aromas hovering over a surgical nursing unit may leave more sensitive readers lightheaded. The author’s passion for and true love of nursing are evident on every page, and this quality makes the book an absorbing read and a testament to the immense responsibility, diligent work, and compassionate spirit of medical caregivers.

A beautiful homage to the dignified, unsung heroes of hospital care.
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As a recently retired nurse I found Christine's account of her nursing experiences and her observations on the failings of the nhs interesting. A person considering a career in nursing or someone with no medical knowledge may find the book more interesting.
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