I recently read Sonja Schwartzbach’s book, “Oh Sh*t, I Almost Killed You! A Little Book of Big Things Nursing School Forgot to Teach You.” I pick my books like I pick my wine, by the labels of course. I liked the cover photo, knew Sonja was a fellow cardiac surgical ICU nurse, and appreciated her previous blog posts and columns on the Huffington Post – so I had to check out the hype.

First of all, the book is a must-read for anyone in nursing school or considering nursing school. It is blatantly honest and deeply emotional, coupled with the common dark humor naturally possessed or developed by any nurse. Sonja writes about tips for survival of the career and depicts the personality of a nurse so accurately, I thought she was writing the book specifically about me. Reading from the perspective of an experienced nurse, a few concepts really stuck out and made me wish the book had been published prior to the beginning of my nursing career.

Most notably, I never knew how hard it would be and I wish someone had been honest with me. Working in the ICU is taxing from every angle and the job is normalized when nothing about it is normal. Sonja depicts multiple ICU scenarios so well that I could practically feel them myself – almost to the point of a déjà vu situation. She writes about the first death she experienced and the stress of her first emergent thoracotomy. She talks about how you can’t “pour from an empty pot.” I also still struggle with this, but the older I get, the clearer this concept becomes. Finally, she writes about what it is like to date or marry a nurse. This one really hit home for me. It takes a special person to love and understand a nurse. I had no idea the issues that would arise in my romantic relationships and friendships once I became a nurse. Sonja pulls the pieces together and enlightens the reader making me want every person in my family to read the book so I no longer have to explain the “nursonality” myself.

Some take-home points from the book for everyone are: people will be mean to you in nursing, it is your responsibility to not be mean back, the job is harder than you could ever imagine, but the rewards are more than you can ever imagine, take care of yourself, and welcome to the profession. Sonja Schwartzbach is a major attribute to the nursing profession and I would encourage every nurse, fresh or experienced, to read this heartfelt, gem of a book.


You can follow Sonja’s blog here and her Instagram account here. You can also purchase your own copy of Oh Sh*t, I Almost Killed You! here.