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Summer Reading for Nursing Students

Students preparing for their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) learn about nursing through coursework and clinical settings. The majority of their reading materials consist of textbooks, nursing journals and research articles. Before beginning their careers, there are some books for nursing students that may help them navigate the complex profession.

Books About Nursing

For nursing students who want to discover more about their profession, here are some nursing books they should consider reading.

I Wasn’t Strong Like This When I Started Out: True Stories of Becoming a Nurse – Lee Gutkind (Editor)
This book is a collection of stories. The nurses reveal their struggles with burnout and bureaucracy along with the dilemmas and insecurities they encounter while providing patient care.

Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not – Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale is one of the most well-known nurses in history and her thoughts and experiences regarding nursing are still relevant even after 150 years.

Saving Lives: Why the Media’s Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk – Sandy Summers
In movies and television, nurses are shown straightening pillows, applying bandages and dispensing pills. This image is damaging to the relationship between nurses and their patients. The reality is nurses are men and women who are able to diagnose, treat and care for patients with many types of injuries and health conditions. Nurses need to dispel the misconceptions depicted by the media.

Who Moved My Cheese?: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life – Spencer Johnson, M.D.
A big part of nursing is change. Nursing students will gain a perspective on how to deal with the constant evolution of their profession.

Your 1st Year as a Nurse – Donna Cardillo, RN
This book is a great resource for answering questions about the wants, needs and expectations of being a nurse. The real-life stories relate suggestions on networking and how to work through challenging days.

Empathy and Compassion for Patients

Books for nursing students that describe the patient’s point of view can show nurses how important it is to express empathy as part of quality patient care. Students should develop a mindfulness of their patient’s suffering and understand the need to assist them with maintaining their dignity throughout declining health and at end of life.

Bed Number Ten – Sue Baier and Mary Zimmeth Schomaker
The novel recounts the story of a paralyzed patient with Guillain-Barre syndrome and the psychological and physical pain endured throughout an 11-month hospital stay.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death – Jean-Dominique Bauby
The memoir is about a man who suffered a rare type of stroke that left him with locked-in syndrome. He dictated the book through blinking. His story covers what it is like to be incapable of moving and communicating while still having an active mind. Bauby poignantly illustrates the need for nurses to demonstrate compassion.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot
Cells from Henrietta Lacks, a young black cancer patient in the 1950s, were instrumental in the production of the polio vaccine. Her cells became known as HeLa. The unusually virulent cell line was used in many scientific developments and experiments. The book highlights the disparity between the benefits that resulted from HeLa research discoveries and the limited access to healthcare for some patients including those in Lacks’ own family. It also offers an important look at ethics and how what is legal isn’t always ethical.

If nurses want to do well in their occupation, they need to read about it. By reading books about their profession, they stay informed and gain an insight into best practices. A BSN program equips students with the knowledge they need to become competent nurses, and books for nursing students can enlighten and personalize the types of traumas and situations they may confront throughout their career.

Learn more about the UT Arlington online BSN degree program.


5 Great Books to Make You a Better Nurse. (2010, July 20). Retrieved from

Best Summer Reading for Nurses. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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