5 Great Books for the Nurse in Your Life

Finding a great gift for a nurse or nursing student can be a challenge. You don’t know if they already have a stethoscope, watch, or white coat, and many hospitals forbid flowers or monetary presents This list of five nursing-related books is here to help. With historical fiction, medical philosophy, and cross-cultural nursing books, you’re sure to find the perfect present for the nurse in your life.


The hit series Outlander inspired a big-budget Showtime series and taught an entire generation of women to love Scottish men. It also elevated the role of nursing in popular fiction. Main character Claire draws on her experience as a battlefield nurse to deliver babies, set broken arms, and perform surgery as she proves to the 17th century that women can be medical experts. Author Diane Gabaldon was a biology professor and researcher before she became a best-selling novelist, and she brings authenticity to Claire’s nursing decisions. The Outlander series combines strong women, historical  medicine, and sweeping romance into an irresistible package.

‘My Name is Mary Sutter’

Every nurse knows the story of Florence Nightingale and her tireless efforts to improve battlefront medicine. My Name is Mary Sutter is a  fictionalized accounting of a Civil War nurse that draws on the Nightingale spirit to imagine a determined woman struggling to be taken seriously in the  male-dominated world of surgery. The book gives a detailed accounting of medical conditions during the Civil War but stays light by following Mary’s  romantic journey.

‘The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down’

Journalist Anne Fadiman spent years working with a Hmong family and their doctors in California. In The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, she dives into the Hmong’s cultural healing practices and explores how they clash with modern medicine. By alternating between the perspectives of  American hospital workers and the history of the Hmong people, Fadiman shows how difficult it is for the two perspectives to reconcile. This book is  required reading for many nursing programs and makes an excellent gift for any nurse working with diverse populations.

‘Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End’

Nurses are the backbone of the long-term care industry in America. It’s nursing assistants, LPNs, and RNs who provide the day-to-day care in  nursing  homes. In this book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Dr. Atul Gawande explores what it means to die in the United  States. He explains the innovative ways that nursing homes are working to make patients’ lives better and highlights the barriers that caring nurses  face when trying to improve quality of life for their charges.

‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’

As biomedical research advances, nurses and their patients must confront new ethical challenges. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a nonfiction novel, in which author Rebecca Skloot traces the complicated legacy of Henrietta Lacks As a poor, black patient at Johns Hopkins University,  Henrietta’s cells were taken without her permission and used for decades of biocellular research. Her descendants, unaware this had happened until Skloot told them, have never been compensated. Nurse readers will appreciate the humanized reminder of their role in championing patient rights

Whether you want to honor a graduating nursing student or thank a nurse for taking care of you, a small but thoughtful gift like a book chosen just for  them is a great option. You can write a note of appreciation inside the cover to personalize your present. Your recipient will keep the book and your  sentiments long after a bouquet would have wilted or a dessert would have been devoured.

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