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The Comfort Garden: Tales from the Trauma Unit Paperback – Mar 21 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 386 pages
  • Publisher: Fresh Pond Press (March 21 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0984496548
  • ISBN-13: 978-0984496549
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 653 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #544,694 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

About the Author

Laurie Barkin has worked as a staff nurse and head nurse on in-patient units and day treatment centers, as a psych liaison nurse, and as a psych nursing instructor at University of San Francisco School of Nursing. Before writing The Comfort Garden: Tales from the Trauma Unit, Laurie worked for 22 years as a psychiatric nurse. Along the way, she has designed and facilitated nurse retreats and led support groups for staff. She is a consultant to the University of California, San Francisco, Department of Psychiatry, providing support for psychiatric staff at San Francisco General Hospital. She is an active member of the Bay Area Red Cross Disaster Mental Health group. Laurie Barkin began her nursing career on a surgical ICU before transferring to psychiatric nursing. After five years working on in-patient units in and around Boston, she returned to Boston University School of Nursing and earned a masters degree in adult psychiatric nursing with a focus on psychiatric consultation-liaison nursing. During those years, Laurie sang jazz standards in dinner clubs and hotel lounges in the Boston area. These days, Laurie has neither lost her voice nor her love for singing: she practices daily and sings with friends and family at neighborhood and holiday parties. With her husband, attorney Brian Brosnahan, Laurie raised three children. In combining her creative spirit with her passion for nursing, Laurie continues writing and welcomes stories you would like to share about the work you do. She has said, "In my role as a psychiatric nurse working on the surgical trauma unit at San Francisco General Hospital, I listened to hundreds of trauma stories. When I listened deeply and without judgment, my patients seemed to feel heard and validated, an uncommon experience for many. Together we examined the twists, turns, and tragedies that had complicated their lives—and the feelings that accompanied them. Working with patients in this way required all of my skills as a psych nurse. The work was meaningful and fulfilling." Laurie Barkin is available for lectures and workshops.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am taking a course on Compassion Fatigue and the instructor recommended this book. I'm so glad she did! Excellent, interesting, well written book about working with people who have experienced trauma. The author uses many relevant examples from her own professional and personal life. Highly readable!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa4c274f8) out of 5 stars 27 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa48b7ef4) out of 5 stars A Very Well Crafted Book! March 10 2011
By Karen B. Huber - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book took me a long time to read, but it was well worth it. Laurie Barkin has written a memoir-type account of her work experience as a psychiatric nurse and woven her personal life throughout. The account read like a good novel, and the personal life experiences rounded this therapeutic story. Laurie's personality shone through her expertise as a nurse; her sensitive care of her patients made me wish there were more nurses like her. What we have lost in quality patient care has touched all aspects of society and has caused costs to skyrocket instead of decrease. Laurie mentions this issue throughout her chapters; she has direct insight from having worked in a hospital when managed care was just taking off. I related to the notion of vicarious trauma that some caregivers experience; this is probably more widespread than some of us want to admit. Although I did not work with such severe trauma cases as Laurie, I did work for a facility that ministered to special populations and after 5 years of working there, sought a career change.

One has to admire a person that loves her job and that loves helping people with traumatic histories. Laurie related these stories in a sensitive manner while making an impact on the reader. I found myself wanting to know more about them and how they had survived such conditions. She did admit that there were a few people she did not warm to, and this added to the book's credibility. I related to her worrying more about her loved ones and wondering if her luck would run out in her own life. It is impossible for many of us not to wonder if our relatively stable lives will all of a sudden be shattered as is the case for many. I am a worrier and I feel like I have to walk on glass sometimes so as not to disturb life's rhythm; although, I am much better as I age. I suppose there is less time left to worry.

Laurie seemed cautious as the book began, not going into too much detail on the first patient she described, but as the book unfolded, the descriptions of the patients and their histories made more of an impact. I especially liked the description of Mr. Livermore, the seemingly cold, inhuman patient who appeared near the end of the book. Then, there was Will Avery, who wondered why the doctors saved him; he felt worthless. I liked Mrs. Holloway, who had gotten a knife wound, from one of her neighbors, and the comical Jack Whitman, who joked about his injury.

Laurie balances the sad horror stories of her work with anecdotes of her home life, her last pregnancy, her husband, and three children. They live a good life, the reader watches Benny, her last child, grow; they take vacations and do normal family activities. Toward the end of the book, Laurie describes her pounding heart and her growing misgivings about her work situation. She finally reaches the breaking point, and as the book ends, she decides to take a break from work and worries about reinventing herself. Will her identity survive when she is no longer a nurse? This is an issue many of us grapple with when we make a career change. Will we succeed, or will we fail? It was therapeutic to share the author's feelings and thoughts throughout this book. Readers will find many issues to relate to and share in the ways that Laurie works through them. Is is obvious to me that she is a success; a book is a great accomplishment. In the acknowledgments, she says it took her nine years to write her book; the work she did is evident in the carefully written accounts of her career.

This book should be read by anyone thinking about going into the mental health profession, and it would be therapeutic for those already in it. It really describes the day-to-day struggles and triumphs in the helping professions.
The Comfort Garden: Tales from the Trauma Unit
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa48b7fcc) out of 5 stars Read It. You'll be better for it. April 29 2011
By Frank M. Ochberg MD - Published on
Format: Paperback
The Comfort Garden: Tales from the Trauma Unit. Laurie Barkin Fresh Pond Press 2011 364pp

I'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
April 2011Post-Traumatic Therapy And Victims Of Violence (Routledge Psychosocial Stress Series)Violence and the Struggle for Existence
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa48ba4a4) out of 5 stars A must read for anyone working with trauma clients March 5 2011
By PMHNP-BC - Published on
Format: Paperback
I couldn't put the book down. It compels you with it's excellent use of descriptive language. Laurie's writing style is so beautiful it made telling a group of stories of individual (including Laurie's)life's trauma compelling. Anyone who works with trauma must learn to take care of themselves first, Laurie teaches this lesson. She also teaches a professional how to do a needs assessment,treatment plan, and evaluation of care all essential components of nursing, Laurie's profession, but of care by anyone who is intervening in the cycle of trauma. Thank you Laurie for the gift of The Comfort Garden.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa48ba864) out of 5 stars comfort garden March 9 2011
By mm - Published on
Format: Paperback
A great read for mental health professionals and anyone interested in learning more about trauma. Well written and rich with details. Laurie gives us a compelling insiders view of the daily life of patients and staff in a city hospital..better than ER !
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa48ba948) out of 5 stars Who cares for the caregivers? April 23 2011
By Jeanne Zarka - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I thank the author for a book that needed to be written well. Laurie Barkin makes a strong case for emotional support for caregivers to avoid burnout and maintain balance. Ms. Barkin uses her experience as a psychiatric nurse in the trauma unit of a county hospital to relate her patients' stories of life-shattering trauma. Her vivid descriptions of the "characters" and their stories fully engaged me. I felt like I met these people and listened to them firsthand. She also describes being torn by having to leave her young children in the care of others to care for her patients and of the difficulties in separating herself from her work to attend to her children. As a single mother and former manager I could relate to her ambivalence and challenge. Parents and others in caregiving positions owe it to themselves to read this book and gain from the perspective of one who has been on the front lines of caregiving and survived.