Reviews for The Comfort Garden, Tales from the Trauma Unit

quoteThe Comfort Garden is filled with authentic moments that are both caring and healing. Embracing life, the author helps herself and her patients re-pattern traumatic experiences. Inspiring and painful at the same time, The Comfort Garden reveals the real world of human-to-human caring at its highest level. This work shows how the route toward emotional healing transcends medical technology and lies within a patient's inner experience."

Jean Watson, PhD, RN, AHN-BC, FAAN
Founder: Watson Caring Science Institute

quoteThe Comfort Garden is a great read… With its conversational, personal, yet professional style, this book contains essential information and inspiration for all trauma workers."

Laurie Anne Pearlman, PhD
Author of Risking Connection: A Training Curriculum for Working With Survivors of Childhood Abuse
Independent Consulting Practice, Holyoke, MA

quoteLike a pebble hurled into water, a patient's story ripples outward, lapping relentlessly into the lives of the caregivers. These stories penetrate caregivers in ways that can be wrenching, uplifting, unsettling, dispiriting, corrosive, inspirational or numbing. The Comfort Garden is one of the first books to examine the effect of these stories on the caregiver. Laurie Barkin takes us into the taut, jarring world of the trauma unit where nurses and doctors face daily battles, both emotional and physical. Barkin tends these battle wounds with empathy, precision, and insight."

Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD
Editor-In-Chief of The Bellevue Literary Journal and a
Author of Singular Intimacies: Becoming a Doctor at Bellevue and Medicine in Translation

quoteI've been there - on those trauma units, at those bedsides, in those staff meetings when the work of fixing broken bones and failing organs gives way to the sick thud of realization: this life is lost, although the body will survive.  I've been there as a medical/surgical intern in San Francisco and as a psychiatry resident at Stanford.  I've been there as state and federal administrator, struggling to extend a totally inadequate budget to meet the needs of the severely mentally ill.  But Laurie Barkin took me back there and left me sadder and wiser, far more intimately acquainted with the highs and lows of work in the current M*A*S*H milieu of urban America, far more respectful of the role of the consulting nurse, far more sobered by the challenge of providing a decent, humane climate for those who survive physical calamity with profound emotional wounds.   Laurie is that rare health professional with a gift for narrative and a story tell.  She is a nurse, an educator, a wife, a mom -- and she has remarkable spunk, clarity and resilience.  She volunteers to get close, very close, to people at the end of their lives, to parents whose children have been burned, to addicts and AIDs sufferers with obnoxious personalities.  She campaigns to retain needed but unprofitable staff "debriefings" -meetings to explore feelings after beloved patients die or after colleagues are forced out of jobs due to budget cuts.  She explains her own stress, balancing the joys and obligations of pregnancy and parenthood with the schedule of an overworked nurse at San Francisco General Hospital.  Laurie's book rested, unread, on my desk for 6 months.  As a trauma specialist, I like to read for escape, not for re-immersion in yet another world of crime, cruelty and loss.  But once in, I couldn't stop.  Her portraits are, at times, humorous, at times harrowing, but always interesting and realistic.  She doesn't dwell on tragedy.  She lets the reader learn from her dilemmas - how to relate to a patient who pushes her away; how to find a way to like a person who thrives on antagonizing others; how to confront a young doctor who has little respect for an experienced nurse.  

This is an important book for any health care worker, but especially for those of us who consider ourselves traumatic stress specialists.  It reinforces the values and the spirit that brought us into the field.  And it reminds us of the obstacles we face every day: human cruelty, social injustice, dwindling resources.  Laurie is no pollyanna.  She is realistic and she suffers from vicarious trauma.  But she copes and learns and survives and uplifts her fellow travelers.  Read this.  You'll be better for it."

Frank M Ochberg, MD
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry Michigan State University

quotePsychiatric nurse, Laurie Barkin, gives the reader a close-up look at the heartbreaking, and often chilling situations she faces each day in San Francisco General's infamous trauma unit. The Comfort Garden is the compelling story of one nurse's struggle to remain compassionate and sane while helping those whose lives have been shattered on the battlefield of the inner city."

Echo Heron, RN
Author of Intensive Care and The Story of a Nurse

quoteThe Comfort Garden tells two intertwining stories: the story of the real individuals behind the countless stories of trauma…we hear about far too often (along with those whose stories we rarely hear); and the story of the author, a psychiatric nurse who is among the front line of those who offer these individuals care and comfort. Just as the author is able to significantly impact the lives of those who have suffered, so too do the survivors' lives irrevocably impact her own life…Ms. Barkin's text approaches sometimes painful and sometimes redemptive material with honesty, thoughtfulness, and much-needed occasional humor, and should be on the recommended reading list for the range of professionals who work with survivors of acute trauma."

Margaret E. Blaustein, PhD
Director of Training and Education
The Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute, Brookline, MA

quoteWhenever we walk into a hospital or a doctor's office we often assume that the patients are somehow broken, sick or frightened and that the nurses and doctors are whole, healthy and brave. In stories that prove these assumptions false, Laurie Barkin shows us how permeable the line actually is between the cared for and the caregiver. She understands that, no matter, we are all healers and, at the same time, we are all in need of healing. In The Comfort Garden Barkin reveals not only the stories of her work with trauma patients but also equally moving stories of her heart. It is by such intimate sharing we are healed."

Cortney Davis
Author of The Heart's Truth: Essays on the Art of Nursing
(Kent State University Press)
Winner of the American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Award and
of an IPPY Silver Medal in Non-Fiction

quoteIn an age when hospitals have been turning to quicker-acting medications, faster discharges, and fewer deep and meaningful conversations with patients, Laurie Barkin takes the opposite position. She urges us to make the time to use our knowledge of psychodynamic psychotherapy to help traumatized people early in the course of their distress."

Lenore Terr, MD
Psychiatrist and author of Too Scared to Cry

quoteThis extraordinary book weaves a compelling tapestry at once beautiful and profoundly disturbing…Laurie Barkin's voice is that of EVERY nurse, or rather, EVERY WORKING PARENT. Every working parent can identify with her ambivalence at leaving her children every day…every nurse, with her passion for practice."

Marie Manthey, RN, MNA
President Emeritus of Creative Health Care Management and
author of The Practice of Primary Nursing

quoteThe Comfort Garden, an engrossing journey into the contemporary world of hospital psychiatry… speaks eloquently to the humanity, compassion, and vulnerability of mental health professionals who help their patients navigate through some of the most difficult crises of their lives."

Jack Coulehan, MD
Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine SUNY
Fellow, Center for Medical Humanities and Bioethics
Author of Medicine Stone

quoteLaurie Barkin, in her book The Comfort Garden: Tales from the Trauma Unit reflects the following lines from one of Emily Dickenson's short epigrammatic poems –"Tell all the Truth but tell it slant/ Success in Circuit lie." A sophisticated, experienced psychiatric nurse, Barkin wires many circuits: public and private; domesticity and career; health and wellness; cohesion and disruption within healthcare delivery; and loyalty and betrayal within both organizations and individuals…This well-written, clear account offers both meaning and hope for those who are in any way interested in plumbing depths in humanism."

Barbara A. Hayes
Emeritus Professor of Nursing, James Cook University
Townsville, Australia


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