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I Knew a Woman: Four Women Patients and Their Female Caregiver by Cortney Davis



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This book was good until it sucked. The stream of smug, "tsk-tsk"ing condescension veiled in "concern" for her patients was like a dripping faucet that went from unnoticeable to distracting to driving me to put this book down before I finished it. I work in a very similar clinical situation as Ms. Davis--in the Bronx, with women under the age of 21 who are pregnant, often undocumented, often not in school, etc. I would write that I struggle every day to not make assumptions about them and to see them on their level, not mine, but the truth is I can't because IT'S NOT A STRUGGLE. It's easy to listen to people, and even if it wasn't, treating my patients like human beings who are autonomous and want to be healthier, want to be informed, is my RESPONSIBILITY. They're people, not "babies having babies" or "heartbreaking cases." Jesus. No wonder one of her patients called her a bitch--the only woman she seems to treat without some sort of manipulation is the one who is a educated middle-aged white woman, surprise, just like her. As a future clinician, I was drawn to this book under the guise it is advertised by: a nurse practitioner learns from her patients, her patients learn from her. I wanted to be illuminated by her insights into the doctor/patient relationship. But the things she learns (does she learn anything?) are basically: I knew a woman who I assumed to be a total ho...and then she wasn't. Or I knew a woman who I assumed to be hiding some abuse, and then she was, and that was good, because I was right. Why doesn't she ever learn just not to make nasty assumptions about suffering people?Even better, just read this: Human Responses from a Family Nurse Practitioner. ( )
  damsorrow | Jul 22, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345438744, Paperback)

"It's not easy to be a female patient," writes nurse practitioner and poet Cortney Davis. "Because most of our reproductive organs are internal, even routine examinations and procedures in the field of women's health are uncommonly invasive, reminding us of our vulnerability." I Knew a Woman is a compelling and unusual book. Sometimes it's like a novel, with Davis unraveling the stories of four women (composites of actual patients) whom she sees at a clinic. At other times, it's Davis's own health memoir, including the invasive and inappropriately sexual exams her first doctor performed when she was a teenager, and details of her breast biopsy. We learn about women's health (Pap tests, ultrasound, and biopsies, for example) and women's bodies from the perspective of a compassionate, intuitive woman whose work is examining women all day.

Davis is a poet, able to convey details with nuance and surprise. "The practitioners work their hands so fast, they blur like running water... Baby X looks as fragile and evanescent as spun sugar," she writes of an attempt to save a premature, heroin-addicted baby. And of her own profession, she writes about what nurses do best: "touching, listening, observing, interpreting, teaching, guiding, comforting, waiting, remembering." I Knew a Woman is a fascinating book by a talented writer and a skilled, intuitive nurse. --Joan Price

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:44 -0400)

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