Sunday 11/11, 2 p.m.
In the 1980s, Crane left her job as a nurse with the VA to take charge of a new senior clinic in a high-rise public housing complex on Chicago’s West Side, an experience she chronicles in her vivid, unflinching book. She was eager for the chance to prove her mettle and relished the opportunity to run her own clinic independently. But from her first day on the job, it was clear she might be in over her head. Her Evan-Picone suits were out of place in the makeshift, roach-infested clinic, where the single bathroom doubled as a conference room. Gangs and violence were a problem in the surrounding neighborhood. But the real challenge was getting used to her co-workers and patients. Though her instinct was to stick to giving checkups and dispensing medical advice, the author soon found herself planning funerals for people who had no family, defending the elderly against scammers, and visiting local bars to track down one woman’s alcoholic son.
In this thoughtful and compelling memoir, Crane’s keen eye for detail brings her stories, by turns heartbreaking and humorous, to life on the page. Graphic accounts of treatments, like an at-home pelvic exam she performed on a seriously ill woman, are disturbing but reflect the reality of caring for a disadvantaged population with few resources.
The author also has a clear sense of her own weaknesses. She admits she sometimes had a “mental block against taking action,” which seemed partly born of wanting to help patients retain their dignity and independence but also a desire to keep her emotional distance in complicated situations. In one case, she admits to feeling a sense of relief when a patient died, since it meant she would no longer have to dedicate so much effort to arranging her care.
Through it all, Crane’s passion for helping others is obvious even as she struggles to figure out the best way to do that.
An honest, compassionate look at what it takes to care for some of America’s most vulnerable citizens.
MARIANNA CRANE became one of the first gerontological nurse practitioners in the early 1980s. A nurse for over forty years, she has worked in hospitals, clinics, home care, and hospice settings. She writes to educate the public about what nurses really do. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Eno River Literary Journal, Examined Life Journal, Hospital Drive, Stories That Need to be Told: A Tulip Tree Anthology, and Pulse: Voices from the Heart of Medicine. She lives with her husband in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Praise for Marianna Crane
“ Marianna Crane writes with compassion and insight about what it’s like to serve on the front lines of the medical profession—treating the most vulnerable among us. Her vivid account is moving and enlightening, a valuable contribution to the literature of social justice.”
—PHILIP GERARD, Professor, Department of Creative Writing, University of
North Carolina Wilmington, and author of The Art of Creative Research
“ Nurse practitioners are well known for their willingness to be primary care providers for the ‘underserved.’ Society prefers that such patients remain invisible, because acknowledging their existence is too unsettling. It is my fervent hope that Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic will find a wide audience of readers who are willing to meet and care about the people nurse practitioners allow into their lives every day.”
—MARIE LINDSEY, PhD, FNP, health care consultant and founding member
and first president of the Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nurse
“ . . . poignant and compelling . . . With empathy, compassion, and wit. Crane makes an important contribution to the literature of a frail population. We, who research these folks, are indebted to the author for her insights and unvarnished truth.”
—PETER J. STEIN, PhD, former Associate Director, Aging Workforce
Initiatives, University of North Carolina Institute on Aging