Terry Ratner RN, BS, MFA - nurse, writer, educator - click to return home
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Nurses' Corner
Personal Memoir



Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality
by Pauline W. Chen

Confronting death doesn't come easy to nurses or doctors, but rarely is it the focus of a memoir. Pauline Chen, a surgeon specializing in liver transplants, writes a series of thoughtful, moving essays describing the relationship between modern medical practice and the emotional events surrounding death.

The author engages and educates readers as she exposes the myth of medical training-how aspiring physicians face death in the form of cadavers. "Each detail of the cadaver, every bone, nerve, blood vessel and muscle-passes from the world of the unknown into the world of the familiar." Chen remembers her first lesson in disengaging from the personal. "To complete the initiation rite successfully, we need to learn to separate our emotional self from our scientific self; we must view this dead human body not as "one of us" but as "one of them," a medical case to be understood, but not embraced."

Final Exam is a moving and provocative mixture of clinical evidence and personal grace. It's a book for doctors, nurses, and anyone who cares for dying patients and understands the paradoxes of end-of-life care in an age of life preserving treatments.

Alfred A. Knopf
$23.00 (hardcover)