by Michael Medved

The smell that comes off the pages of this book might as well be hospital disinfectant—it's that authentic. The author interviewed 63 members of the staff of a West Coast hospital (its identity is withheld). They include a doctor who handles terminal cancer patients and must deal with his emotions when the people die; a tough nurse who puts up with no nonsense in the maternity ward; and a gay psychiatrist who succeeds in getting a hospice established. A male nurse, an ex-Marine, quits because he can't stand tending the "vegetable patch." A female pediatric resident learns that "you worry all the time about hurting somebody, making a mistake and doing the wrong thing. If you set them back, if you cause them pain, but they're still alive, then you blame yourself. But death is such a big thing, such a big change, you can't really believe you're in control of that. If that happens, then you just say, 'His number was up, there's nothing we could do.' " They all comment on their jobs, money, their families and why doctors have such a high rate of suicide. Medved (who co-authored What Really Happened to the Class of '65) makes certain that no reader walks away from Hospital with any romantic illusions about how wonderful it is to be a doctor. (Simon & Schuster, $14.95)