Book Review: Caring Lessons, by Lois Hoitenga Roelofs

LoisBookCover.jpgLois Roelofs describes herself as a rebellious minister’s daughter, a reluctant nurse, a restless mom, and a perpetual student who eventually became a fun-loving teacher of mental health nursing. During her forty-year nursing career, she cared for patients and taught nursing students in primarily mental health and medical-surgical settings. As a caregiver, she learned the value of caring for herself and did so by changing jobs to suit her interests, going back to school more than once to feed her craving for learning, and seeking professional help when personal and family crises invaded her life.

Recently I enjoyed the opportunity to review Lois Roelofs' memoir, Caring Lessons (about $12 on Subtitled “A Nursing Professor's Journey of Faith and Self,” the book gives an interesting look inside the life of a woman growing up and discovering herself in the 1950s and '60s. Although longing for travel and adventure, Roelofs chose one of the few career paths that she felt were available to her and became a nurse. The book follows her from her high school graduation through nurse training, marriage, the births of her children, an emotional meltdown that ended with her being briefly institutionalized, and from there to an expansion of her world as she sought, with her husband's support, advanced eduction. She eventually earned a Ph.D. and taught nursing. Along the way, Roelofs shares an inside look at how it felt to be a woman, wife, mother, and nurse during those eras.
There are no overt lessons in this book. It simply is a more-or-less chronological tale of one woman's life. In the preface, Roelofs describes the book as “a potpourri of stories dipping in and out of my nursing life. . . ,” written at least in part because “with nursing shortages, so few nursing memoirs in the bookstores, and significant health care changes on the horizon, nursing stories are needed to inform, to inspire, and . . . to provide humor to all nurses, and to the public — many of whom will wake up someday and see the caring face of a nurse.”

LoisAuthorPic.jpgReaders who enjoy memoirs that provide a glimpse into another person's life will find much to appreciate about Caring Lessons, a carefully told tale of an ordinary life that reveals some of the universal struggles of women in the fifties and sixties and beyond. This intimate and introspective memoir is by turns amusing, sad, and inspiring. Without being didactic or preachy, Roelofs demonstrates the importance of faith, family, and friendship, and of caring for yourself as well as caring for others. 
About the Author:
Lois longed to fly the friendly skies, but in 1968 minister’s daughters did not become stewardesses. They chose practical careers like teaching or nursing. For the entire first year of nursing school, Lois made weekly calls home to beg her parents to let her come home. Then her instructors decided she had a “bad attitude. Despite her lukewarm feelings about a nursing career, Lois set out to prove those cranky old instructors wrong. 
Lois’s attitude, as well as her feelings about nursing, changed radically during her over decades-long career. She retired in 2000 as professor emerita from Trinity Christian College with Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degrees in nursing. But even that wasn’t enough classroom time for Lois. She recently completed three years of the University of Chicago Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults. She now spends her days writing and being a happy grandma. To learn more about Lois, visit her website. Excerpts of Caring Lessons are available by clicking here.
Just Thought You Should Know:

Caring Lessons would be a nice gift for a nurse celebrating a flurry of nursing holidays in May:
  • National RN Day (May 6) 
  • Florence Nightingale’s Birthday (Mary 12)
  • National Nurses Week (May 6 to May 12) 
  • Nursing Month (May) 
  • Nursing School Graduations (May)
Mental Health nursing and personal mental health issues are also a sub-plot of this memoir and May is Mental Health Month. 
If you decide to read Caring Lessons, please come back and let me know what you thought of it. Are there any memoirs you've read recently that you particularly enjoyed?