Weekends at Bellevue

Weekends at Bellevue

Book - 2009
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Julie Holland thought she knew what crazy was.
Then she came to Bellevue.

New York City's Bellevue Hospital, the oldest public hospital in the United States, has a tradition of "serving the underserved" that dates back to 1736. For nine eventful years, Dr. Holland was the weekend physician in charge of Bellevue's psychiatric emergency room, a one-woman front line charged with assessing and treating some of the city's most vulnerable and troubled citizens, its forgotten and forsaken--and its criminally insane. Deciding who gets locked up and who gets talked down would be an awesome responsibility for most people. For Julie Holland, it was just another day at the office.

In an absorbing memoir laced with humor, Holland provides an unvarnished look at life in the psych ER, recounting stories from her vast case files that are alternately terrifying, tragically comic, and profoundly moving: the serial killer, the naked man barking like a dog in Times Square, the schizophrenic begging for an injection of club soda to quiet the voices in his head, the subway conductor who watched a young woman pushed into the path of his train. As Holland comes to understand, the degree to which someone can lose his or her mind is infinite, and each patient's pain leaves a mark on her as well--as does the cancer battle of a fellow doctor who is both her best friend and her most trusted mentor.

Writing with uncommon candor about her life both inside and outside the hospital--her professional struggles, personal relationships, and the therapy sessions that help her crack the hard shell she's formed to keep the pain at bay--Holland supplies not only a page-turner with all the fast-paced immediacy of a TV medical drama but also a fascinating glimpse into the inner lives of doctors who struggle to maintain perspective in a world where sanity is in the eye of the beholder.
Publisher: New York : Bantam Books, c2009.
ISBN: 9780553807660
0553807668
Characteristics: 310 p. ; 25 cm.

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batlet
May 22, 2016

This is a shameful and unrepresentative depiction of mental health professionals. The author is hostile, callous, and belittling toward her patients. As someone who has worked in the industry (both outpatient and inpatient settings), I was really excited about this book. Instead of being a series of insights into people struggling with mental illness in a major urban hospital, the book was more revealing of the author's profoundly disrespectful attitude toward her patients, and people with mental illness more generally. She herself admits to being rude, antagonistic, and flippant toward them. She even seeks her own mental health treatment to address this attitude. I expected that over the course of the book, she would make some sort of attitudinal and behavioral change, so I kept reading. It never happens. She treats people seeking help as "them," separate from the "us" that ostensibly includes herself, the staff, and most of her friends (and implies the reader is also among this group). Given that 25% of the country's population will experience major depression alone in their lifetime, she clearly needs to rethink this.

Further, she approaches her patients as malingerers and proudly turns them away from the emergency room. Her attitude is hostile and celebrates demeaning people at their most vulnerable. Again, she admits all this and pays lip service to the need to get help, but her tone never changes.

She should not work in the industry, let alone write a book about it. I was disgusted by the author's attitude and humor at the patients' expense. I can't imagine how her staff must have felt working under her. The only way in which this book is brave and honest is in its unintentional reflection of the author's profound lack of empathy and unfitness for her profession. She should have been a police officer or detective, instead, where her suspicious nature would have worked in her benefit. I hope directors of psychiatric training will read this book and work to root out this kind of attitude in their trainees before they're allowed to interact with patients.

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magsmi
Apr 26, 2015

Really interesting book. Insightful look into the Bellevue psych ward.

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