Skip to main content

MCN talks about books that nursing students should read

Nursing student talking with teacher

MCN Talks is a bi-monthly series designed to give voice to different members of the Mennonite College of Nursing (MCN) community. Twice a month, faculty, students, and staff are asked questions related to healthcare, education, or life in the nursing program at Illinois State.

What is one non-nursing related book that you think every nursing student should read? Why?

Diane Fleming, Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in your Work and in your Life by Spencer Johnson: So, there’s this book called Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in your Work and in your Life by Spencer Johnson that’s about 75 pages long. It’s very light reading, so even if you’re a slow reader, it should only take you less than an hour. Perfect for nursing students who don’t have time! The book will not only help you deal with change in your own life, but it will also allow you to help all of the patients and people that you come across with change as well.

It is kind of self-help, but it doesn’t read that way. It starts out with a story about two mice and two little humans who are the size of mice. The book is set up so that you can easily apply it to any part of your life, and it gives examples of how to do so. In one example, a story is told about people who own a business, and the business starts to fail. The book then tells the reader how the business owners need to adjust with the changes that are happening in order for them to turn their situation around. That’s just one example, though. You can really use it at any point in life!

Dr. Valerie Wright, Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath: I think that everyone should do the Strengthsfinder analysis. If you get the book, then you also get to do the online tests and find out what your strengths are. Then, you can really work towards those strengths. I’m an activator. I know that that’s one of my strengths. I should be in a job where I’m making things happen. I’m also a leader. I’m not so much a visionary; I’m more of a person that gets a list and goes through the points one by one – checking things off and moving to the next item. I’m not good at going beyond the list. As a result, I shouldn’t be in a role where I have to constantly think about the big picture. While I can be a visionary when needed, that is ultimately not my strength. The book helps people to work towards and build their strengths. It also teaches readers that there are areas that they aren’t strong in and to be okay with that.

Sometimes, strengths can become a weakness. If I take the activator strength too far, it isn’t a strength anymore. So, the book also talks about how to work with other people that have different strengths. For nurses who are working with patients and other nurses every day, knowing what their strengths are can help them build upon them. Knowing their strengths can also help promote positive working relationships with their colleagues as well as their personal relationships outside of the workplace.

Amie Walker, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance and Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E.  Frankl: Hillbilly Elegy is a book that I think is so important because of where we’re located and where students are going to be practicing once they graduate. It’s a book about “hillbilly” life, which, geographically, is located in America’s rustbelt. The author grew up in this subculture, so he uses this term in an endearing manner and has much insight into the issues of these people—as well as some possible solutions.

There are families of these “hillbillies,” and their lifestyle puts them at risk for different health issues. Things like substance abuse, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and poor dental conditions are a few of the issues which impact quality and quantity of life. When you read about what these people’s experiences are, it really puts into perspective where your patients may be coming from. Having an understanding of this population of people is going to help you to direct them to better resources and to find out what you need to do to help people get out of these generational systems that aren’t healthy.

Victor Frankl, who wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, was a psychiatrist and a neurologist and was put in a concentration camp by the Nazis. He was able to pick out what was helping people to survive, and what he found was that when someone had a purpose or meaning in life, they were more likely to live in terrible conditions.

What we learn from this is how important that it is for people to have meaning in life. While finding someone’s meaning can be used to help people when they have suicidal ideations, depression, and addictions, it can be even less dramatic than that.

Before I taught, I worked as a staff nurse in a nursing home. There, I would constantly get these elderly ladies who were confused and restless. You can’t just drug them to make them sit still. So, I would give them something to do.

I would walk up to them, exhausted, with a big pile of unfolded hand towels and washcloths. I would say to the women something like, “‘Gladys,’ I’m so sorry. I hate to ask you. I know you’ve done a lot for me, but I am really busy and I just can’t get to folding these towels. I just can’t do it. Is there any way that you could help me with this?”

Now, it isn’t just a set of busy work in front of somebody, it’s a purpose. The patient realizes “I’m helping somebody. I’m relevant, and this person needs me.” Even if I was being an actress about it, I think what I was intuitively doing as a nurse at that time was trying to help these women have some kind of meaning in their life. So, if students can understand how important it is to find a meaning in life, they can first be assessing people to see if they possess that and, second, guiding that person to finding out what that purpose is.

Kileigh Guido, The Mindful Twenty-Something: Life Skills to Handle Stress…and Everything Else by Holly B. Rogers: It’s really important for students to have positive activities and hobbies outside of nursing to help relieve stress. Recently, I took part in a really fun meditation class through Illinois State’s Health Promotion and Wellness. The class was open to both students and staff, and the book that we read for it was called The Mindful Twenty-Something: Life Skills to Handle Stress…and Everything Else.

This is a really practical book for nursing students because it teaches how to effectively manage stress through meditation. Meditation can be a really powerful outlet to deal with anxieties and stresses that come with a rigorous nursing program. If meditation isn’t for you, find something that is not related to nursing that you can participate in. I would encourage students who are trying to manage stress and be more present or “in the moment” to check this book out.


About Us

Profile picture

Diane Fleming – Office Support Specialist

Learn more about Diane

Profile picture

Dr. Valerie Wright – Director for Undergraduate Programs

Learn more about Valerie

Profile picture

Amie Walker – Instructional Assistant Professor

Learn more about Amie

Profile picture

Kileigh Guido – Academic Advisor for Traditional,
Accelerated, and RN to BSN Programs

Learn more about Kileigh

MCN is providing leadership in nursing—Learn more.

Our undergraduate programs

Our graduate programs