12 Must-Read Books for Burnt-Out Nurses 

Reading the right book can change your perspective and provide you with that boost of energy you need when you’re feeling burnt out. There are countless booklists across the Internet that offer relevant titles for nurses to read. Some of them are geared toward nursing students, while others target more experienced nurses. 

For this list, we skipped the books that are focused on exam preparation, advice for getting started in the career, or tips and tricks to the field. Instead, we focused on books that are meant to inspire and rejuvenate nurses. 

Be sure to add these must-read books to your Amazon wish list, and take some time to invest in your own healing and growth, especially during those times when you feel burnt-out in your career.

1. Patients Come Second 

Paul Spiegalman


This one may be a little more geared toward the leadership side of the field, but it certainly offers a unique perspective for everyone working in medicine. Patients Come Second argues that building a strong, engaged team throughout the hospital (to include nurses, administrative staff, etc.) is crucial for providing the best patient care. This book isn’t all serious—it also includes plenty of personal stories with humorous anecdotes, and it’s definitely worth the read! 

2. The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story

Christie Watson

Reading the description of this book gave me goose bumps. It explores the career of a 20-year nurse and her experiences with patients on numerous different hospital units, including the neonatal, geriatric, emergency room, cancer, and the pediatric intensive care units. Watson discusses the little things that nurses do to positively impact the lives of others, such as washing the smokey smell out of burn patient’s hair.  

3. Bedlam Among the Bedpans: Humor in Nursing

Amy Young 

Read this one if you’re looking for something light and humorous. This book combines the stories of a variety of nurses on those funny, awkward, and highly relatable situations nurses find themselves in weekly (if not daily). This book also includes hilarious cartoons and drawings. It’s definitely a wonderful pool or beach read if you are looking for something entertaining.

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4. The Mindful Nurse: Using the Power of Mindfulness and Compassion to Help You Thrive in Your Work

Carmel Bernadette Sheridan 

This book offers practical advice on how to continue to care for others without completely draining yourself. It’s challenging to work in the medical field, and the job is often accompanied by stress, grief, and heartache. This book will help you learn ways to combat compassion fatigue and to maintain your love and joy for your profession.

5. Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying

Maggie Callanan

Especially relevant for hospice, geriatric, or critical care nurses, Final Gifts explores nursing experiences with patients who are terminally ill. The stories and techniques explored in this book can be quite healing to nurses, especially if they have worked with a patient who is actively dying. The book also provides opportunities to promote understanding of end-of-life communication.

6. Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives: The Studies of Nurses

Carolyn Hope Smeltzer and Frances R. Vlasses

This book features over 100 different stories about nurses making a difference in extraordinary ways. These stories can serve as a form of encouragement on days when you are feeling overwhelmed or disappointed. It’s a book you can pick up and read from every now and then without having to necessarily read it straight through.

7. I Wasn’t Strong Like This When I Started Out: True Stories of Becoming a Nurse

Lee Gutkind

This book is a reflective compilation of the experiences of nurses at different points in their careers. It includes stories about their first patient who passed away, the first birth they witnessed, and instances in which they questioned themselves and others. These stories serve as a reminder of the resilience of nurses, even in challenging moments. 

8. The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients’ Lives

Theresa Brown 

The Shift serves as a reminder of the complexities of medical care and the number of things that can change within just one shift. It follows a day in the life of a cancer ward nurse and explores the many intricacies of caring for patients. 

9. The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact

Chip Heath and Dan Heath

While not directly based on the experience of nurses, The Power of Moments explores the elements of a moment that make it memorable to us. It notes the power of connection and insight and thoroughly examines how different experiences can alter the courses of our lives. 

10. Nurse: The Art of Caring

Carolyn Jourdan

This book spans across about 70 years of nursing experiences from different time periods in history. It is composed of short stories that are inspiring and covers numerous settings, such as the psych ward, adult care, and home and homeless healthcare. This one provides relatable moments on lessons learned from being in the field.

11. Four Seasons of Grieving: A Nurse’s Healing Journey with Nature

A. Lynne Wagner

Four Seasons of Grieving notates the experiences and advice of a nurse working her way through grief. Nurses are frequently exposed to the grief of their patients, the patients’ loved ones, and their own coworkers. It is important for nurses to work through their own, personal grief so that they can heal and continue to thrive in their position. 

12. Inspired Nurse

Rich Bluni 

Many nurses begin their careers with passion and love for the people they care for. Overtime, it can be challenging to maintain empathy after experiencing some of the difficult parts of nursing. This book provides practical advice for re-energizing and re-engaging yourself with your position during those times when you feel exhausted.

The next time you find yourself struggling with nursing burn out, consider reaching for a book to help inspire your passion once again. There are numerous coping mechanisms for individuals working in challenging careers, and getting lost in a book is just one of them! Be sure to remember to treat yourself with the same kindness, empathy, and passion that you give to others. 

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