Top 17 Nursing Student Must-Reads

All nurses face challenges, ranging from the heavy emotional and physical toll to mandatory overtime. The immense stress associated with the profession contributes to astonishing burnout rates among new nursing students and most iron of wills. But, a few nursing books, not just the books of CPR or BLS, such as those in the course here, can make all the difference in keeping burnout in check. According to NCBI.NLM.NIH.GOV, burnout levels among health care professionals in the US stand on the precipice. While first described in the 1970s, burnout has become part of the common narrative affecting health professionals, including nurses.

In 2001, 43% of nurses experience the problems and symptoms of emotional exhaustion, and by 2011, actual burnout rates soared to 37%. While keeping up with skills, like enrolling in life-long certification courses, can help nurses reconnect on a personal level, the problem remains

top-17-nursing-students-must-readsNow, burnout rates threatened to become the majority, and for new nursing students or recent graduates, the risk of burnout can feel like too much of a burden to bear, as explained by in a prior blog post, available here. However, nurses concerned about their risk and stress can do something about it. Even reading some of the harrowing tales of nursing and the unusual humor nurses can find in the most challenging of circumstances. In fact, nurses at risk for burnout, which means everyone, should take the time to think about reading these top books for nursing success and emotional wellness.

Slightly Humorous Books for All Nurses, Including Recent Graduates and Experienced Staff

Humor is often described as the best medicine, so our list will start there.

Medusa’s Clot by Dr. Michael Helzner

Medusa’s Clot is a non-fiction, educational resource for nurses that compares the risks and mortality of pulmonary emboli with modern metaphors. With more than 80% of the population unaware of the risks associated with blood clots in the lungs, the book can help nurses learn more and educate those in their care. While educational, the book furthers the notion of overcoming burnout with an air of humor, comparable to the horror classic—Frankenstein. Of course, nothing can substitute the real risk and science behind pulmonary emboli and how they may lead to premature death.

Bedlam Among the Bedpans: Humor in Nursing by Amy Y. Young

Bedlam Among the Bedpans: Humor in Nursing compiles an array of humorous tells from past nursing books, interviews nursing journals and nurse submissions. The book is inspired by real-world events nurses have experienced and the shared bond that only someone who “was there” could appreciate. Stories throughout the book include cartoons and illustrations to transform challenging events into humorous situations. Since it focuses on the stress of constantly “putting out fires,” nurses can turn to this book after facing a harsh, overbearing day.

Stuck Up! 100 Objects Inserted and Ingested in Places They Shouldn’t Be by Rich E. Dreben, Murdoc Knight and Marty A. Sindhian

Stuck Up! is not an ordinary book. It’s a collection of X-ray images showing funny and odd objects ingested or inserted into the body. The shocking and hysterical images can help nurses take their minds to a happy place, letting go of the stress and anguish often found in the workplace. The book also goes into short details about the circumstances surrounding each incident and gives nurses a chance to chuckle at humanity’s own fallibility.

Historic Nursing Books That Help Nursing Students Succeed

While every nurse can appreciate humor and lightheartedness in purview of their extensive responsibilities, some nursing books are timeless and reference the distant past. This group of nursing books includes some of the most well-known names in nursing, including Florence Nightingale, and every nurse must read to these titles.

We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by Elizabeth M. Norman

As another nonfiction novel, We Band of Angels retells the genuine story of nurses caught during battle in December 1941. Nurses managed filled hospitals in the middle of the jungle, with complete disregard for their own health. When the battle was over, nurses that served were left in internment camps for three years, facing challenges few can imagine. Through personal letters and first-hand accounts, the book reinvigorates nursing students with a sense of ability to overcome any obstacle and survive, caring for patients along the way.

Woman of Valor: Clara Barton and the Civil War by Stephen B. Oates

Clara Barton was determined to serve in the US Civil War, but as a 39-year-old woman, that wish was impossible. She, without hesitation, stepped in, providing relief to the weary soldiers and those caught in battle. Without affiliation or government appointment, Clara Barton worked along the front lines, lacking a shield or any real means of defense. Clara was committed to both physical and emotional healing for soldiers, and she became a Council of sorts to the thousands of those injured, sick and dying. Her contributions were anything but small, and after the war, nursing became a trained, paid profession. Clara Barton went on to found and served as the first president of the American Red Cross, so her contributions are retold every time the Red Cross steps into action.

Notes on Nursing: What It Is, and What It Is Not by Florence Nightingale

This classic book, based on the original writings by Florence Nightingale, is not necessarily a requirement or mandated reading text for today’s nursing students, but it remains one of the most innovative and inspiring nursing books in the profession. The book provides a comprehensive overview of what nursing students can expect from their chosen careers. The book does have a heavy feminine focus, emphasizing the role of women in nursing, and introduces topics ingrained in today’s nurses. Nurses learn more about holistic health, alternative therapies, health prevention, home health, and leadership skills. As a result, this is one of the most profound nursing books in this list, and every nurse, whether struggling to overcome the stress or uncertain about their own skills, should take the time to read it.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells the story of a poor, black woman whose cells were taken without her consent in 1951 and have saved countless lives through their use medical innovations. She is among the most influential people in modern health care, and her contribution—her cells—have the fame. Her cells aided in developing the Polio vaccine, genetic mapping, and ongoing breakthroughs. However, her name is often overshadowed, if not forgotten entirely, but the book does give nurses a vital piece of advice. Even a nameless contribution to saving lives deserves recognition, even when shrouded in silence for decades.

Educational Nursing Books for Nurses in Today’s Age

Even with the best inspiration, nurses still need a helping hand in keeping their skills in check. A few titles to read for this purpose include the following:

Nursing Diagnosis Handbook: A Guide to Planning Care by Elizabeth Ackley and Gail Ladwig

This book is currently in its 10th edition and is a valuable educational resource. It helps nurses understand differential diagnoses and the ways professionals can approach care plan creation and management. Instead of focusing on a lengthy, complicated process, the book breaks it down to assessment, diagnosis and planning. The one-size-fits-all approach also helps nurses achieve desired outcomes and avoid unnecessary complications in providing care, making it a great tool for nurses that feel their skills need a refresher.

Clinical Pocket Reference for Nurses

The Clinical Pocket Reference is a series of small, spiral-bound notepads that help nurses revisit their skills and education on the go. The guides are easy to understand and provide a sense of welcome relief for nurses in need of answers right this moment. In addition, the references are usually printed in a way to allow for pen-markings that can be wiped off with alcohol pads, encouraging nurses to never stop learning and thinking. The publisher still exists and ships from the U.K., and while the notepads are available on Amazon, it is difficult to find printed versions at a reasonable price. While ebook versions exist, ordering through the manufacturer is advised for those that want the reliable, easy-to-grab print-version. The publisher also provides reference pads for fundamental care, including arrhythmia management, department management, medications, and care of children and young adults.

Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in Between by Theresa Brown

Theresa Brown is a regular contributor for the New York Times and authored this book to help nurses connect with one another. On the surface, the book serves as a simple memoir of a nurse, but it delves deeper into the personal experiences and how nursing is much more than treating an illness. It’s a real calling, reflecting on the life of Theresa Brown and how moving from emergency care to oncology meant dealing with the pain and sorrow of death for patients, coworkers and herself.

A Healing Touch: True Stories of Life, Death, and Hospice edited by Richard Russo

A Healing Touch focuses on the breath-taking emotions associated with end-of-life care. The team of authors, led by Russo, retell their personal experiences in providing care for those on hospice and how when a person’s light prepares to leave the body, inspiration and awe may strike. While not a deeply religious or spiritual book, it does emphasize the ways nurses serve as a companion, caregiver, counselor, confidant, and trusted person through one’s final days.

Nursing2020 Drug Handbook 40th Edition

The Nursing 2020 Drug Handbook is not necessarily a book anyone would read for fun. However, a physical copy is an excellent resource for experienced and novice nurses alike. The book is in its 40th edition and comes in handy during emergencies and situations where reviewing drug information on a computer or a digital device is impractical.

Inspirational Stories for Nurses

This last group of publications focuses primarily on inspiration and the ways nurses can finally enjoy their lives and feel the commitment to others’ lives now and in the future. In addition, these titles also help nurses remember that while health professionals understand disease, they may overlook it in their peers, family or friends. Furthermore, the risk of burnout often comes from a disconnect with peers, patients and work satisfaction, explains So, they must always be mindful of how their actions transcend the boundaries of physically caring for others.

Inspired Nurse by Rich Bluni

daddy and baby bondingInspired nurse is an absolute must-read for all new and experienced nurses. Rich Bluni, RN, seeks to help nurses overcome the emotional, physical and spiritual hurdles health professionals face daily. The book goes through a series of spiritual meditations and guidance that focus on integrating the rewards of nursing with its hard times. Nurses have so many emotions to deal with that they often feel robotic. Joy, gratitude, grief, compassion and more form the foundation of this book, and it is an absolute essential to helping nurses remember why they chose nursing and how they perform a vital service and human need.

Leave No Nurse Behind: Nurses Working with disAbilities by Donna Maheady

Leave No Nurse Behind looks to reduce the strain on nursing by remembering some nurses continue working and live with disabilities. Sadly, nurses with disabilities often feel isolated and end up pushed out of their careers, but this book takes a second look at how inclusivity and planning can help nurses with the most stressful of circumstances succeed. Instead of focusing on what stressed or limited nurses can’t do physically or emotionally, the book emphasizes what they can, making for an excellent source of inspiration.

Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul: Stories to Celebrate, Honor and Inspire the Nursing Profession (Chicken Soup for the Soul) 1st Edition

Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul is an anthology of stories from nurses and the patients that most influenced their careers. The stories are inspirational, humorous, and heart-felt. They transcend societal differences and reconnect nurses with the sense of compassion and relief found when things go right and when patients thrive. Some stories also have references to the nuances of mental health care, and as noted in a past blog here, mental health crisis management remains an extremely stressful aspect of nursing. The layout also makes for easy reading. Nurses can read a new story every few days, making the first year in the field feel less stressful and overwhelming.

Bed Number Ten, by Sue Baier and Mary Zimmeth Schomaker

Bed Number Ten is a different type of nursing book, told by a patient enduring the entrapment in one’s own body by Guillain-Barré syndrome. The story serves to help nurses remember patients put massive trust and faith in them, and everyone needs love, kindness and dignity. The book also works to give nurses a shot of determination in making all patients feel welcome and appreciated, regardless of whether their needs cause stress.

Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom

While this book is not necessarily a nursing book, it does carry many life lessons, students can apply to reduce their stress. The book is a recounting of experiences the author had with a former professor dying from ALS. Written as a memoir, the book further helps students come to terms with the mortality of their patients, as well as their own mortality, in a lighthearted and happy vision. This book is undoubtedly key to reducing stress and feeling a sense of goodwill for nurses and anyone who reads it.

Take Time for Yourself to Read and Stay Balanced and Healthy

Working in health care is a challenge, and it is a long road that comes with countless emotional and physical turmoil. With that in mind, every nurse can use an occasional pick-me-up in the form of classic nursing books, novels and even educational materials. Consider adding these books to your go-to reading list, and learn how to maintain or reconnect your career with your passion. Meanwhile, legislatures across the country are working to lessen the burden on nurses, reports Becker’s Hospital Review. Taking the time to read a few extra nursing books can further the cause and encourage success until the shortage lessens. Of course, that’s only part of the challenge in maintaining your skills, so adding something extra, such as life-long, life-saving certifications, available here, can go a long way in both preventing burnout and encouraging personal health.

Have you ever experienced burnout or the overwhelming sensation you cannot succeed in nursing? If so, it might be time to take a step back on your day off and pick up a good nursing book. Share your experiences and thoughts along with this article to social media. Remember we are in this together, even when it feels bleak.

About Mackenzie Thompson, Life Saver, NHCPS

Mackenzie is a seasoned life saver and a multifaceted professional in the medical field. With an impressive 8-year track record in medical education, Mackenzie boasts a comprehensive set of certifications, including ACLS, PALS, BLS, and CPR, which reflect her unwavering commitment and expertise. Her significant contributions to teaching and the development of medical content underscore her profound knowledge and dedication to advancing healthcare.

Beyond her medical prowess, Mackenzie seamlessly integrates her passion for education with her proficiency in media and marketing. Her academic journey at Indiana University culminated in a degree in Media and Marketing, further solidifying her expertise in these domains.

In addition to her impressive professional achievements, Mackenzie possesses a refined taste for global exploration, photography, design aesthetics, sartorial elegance, and the culinary arts, with a particular affinity for Chinese cuisine. Currently based in the vibrant city of Manhattan, she continues to be a driving force in the medical community. She is an invaluable asset to, where she champions excellence and innovation with unwavering dedication.

Contact Mackenzie Thompson, Life Saver, NHCPS at.

2 responses

  1. Megan Campbell Avatar
    Megan Campbell

    Of this list, Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul leapt out to me first. There really is a bowl of chicken soup for every soul out there, huh. These feels like an amazing list of reads. I can’t wait to get started.
    Thank you for the recommendation.

    1. Greta Kviklyte Avatar
      Greta Kviklyte

      Always welcome, Megan! Enjoy reading!

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