Breaking Down Life as a Nurse

Nancy Congleton, RN, tells ADVANCE all about her first book

Author Nancy Congleton, RN

After more than 15 years in the nursing profession, Nancy Congleton knows she hasn’t seen it all. But she’s seen plenty—enough to compel her to recount tales from the trenches in her new book, Autopsy of the NP: Dissecting the Nursing Profession Piece by Piece.

Autopsy of the NP is Ms. Congleton’s first foray into writing, and portrays her as a professional who’s come to realize that there’s so much more to the nursing profession than what she was taught in nursing school.

Congleton, RN, resides in Claremore, OK, and works at St. John’s Urgent Care Clinic. She says she wrote her book specifically for two groups of people.

“The first group,” she said, “would be anybody interested in the nursing profession, but who’s currently on the fence and wants to know more.”

“And the second group is the diehards who think to themselves ‘this is what I was born to do; as soon as I graduate high school, I am jumping into this profession!’”

Chances are if you’re reading this article, you’ve found yourself a member of one of those two groups at some point in your life. Ms. Congleton wrote this book with you in mind—a tutorial of sorts for aspiring or potentially aspiring nurses, but also a relatable memoir of sorts for the experienced, battle-tested RN or NP.

Congleton’s book is separated into 18 chapters that fall under six different sections. The list of section names paint an accurate picture of what you’ll read.

Section 1 (Chapters 1–2): Getting Started

Section 2 (Chapters 3–4): Hours of Operation and Varying Nursing Environments

Section 3 (Chapters 5–6): Nursing Attire and Body Mechanics

Section 4 (Chapters 7–9): Unexpected Realities

Section 5 (Chapters 10–14): Trying Relationships and My Tips for Surviving Them

Section 6 (Chapters 15–18): Staying Legal and Keeping Your License

As the book goes on, the topics get a little deeper. If the first six chapters serve as an introduction, an orientation to the profession, perhaps the last 12 exist as a ‘baptism by fire’—Ms. Congleton’s way of letting readers know up front the more challenging, daunting aspects of choosing a career so complicated, yet ultimately rewarding all at once.

“If somebody’s on the fence, they deserve to know the story from beginning to end,” she summarized.

Unexpected Realities

“Nursing school does not cover it all,” said Congleton, “and my instructors said as much. They covered the basics of assessing a patient, they discussed pediatric, cardiac nursing, maternal and newborn health, geriatrics—a basic foundation.”

“But there’s not enough time to cover EVERY disease, every issue that can arise. You get a good percentage of it, but not all of it. Also, they teach you one condition, one complication at a time. But then you get out into the field and you encounter a patient with diabetes, congestive heart failure… they all have their own plan of care. All these pathways are suddenly intersecting—they’re not presenting themselves one at a time.”

Trying Relationships

“When I got into nursing,” admitted Congleton, “I figured I was going to have a relationship with each of my patients. And you do—but it’s not that simple, not that cut and dry.”

So in Chapter 10, she discusses patient relationships in depth—but there are four other chapters in the section. She discusses the challenges of being the RN in charge (“it’s no picnic”) and the confusing, often harmful dynamic between nurses of different generation or experience levels. “I speak at a tech center in my hometown,” Congleton explained, “and people ask whether it’s true that nurses ‘eat their young.’”

Congleton doesn’t mince words. “It’s very real. It is a phenomenon. This profession can be brutal, nurses can be difficult to work with.” Chapter 12 deals with these demanding relationships, while Chapter 13 covers the demands of working with physicians. Finally, in Chapter 14, Ms. Congleton relays tales of working with families.

“People may ask for an MRI,” she explains, “and you’re the one who’s going to tell them that under Medicare guidelines, their loved one doesn’t qualify for that MRI because they were admitted for pneumonia.”

“I’ve had patients’ families tell me I don’t know anything, don’t know what I’m talking about,” said Congleton.

From there, Ms. Congleton discusses legal issues—the importance of documentation, privacy, and above all the need to keep the patient’s interests first in the face of everything going on around you.

Feeling confused or overwhelmed? That’s not the author’s intention—she wrote the book as a final checklist of sorts. Much as some people recommend living together before marriage so you can learn everything about a person before making your ultimate decision, reading Autopsy of the NP can serve as a confirmation of sorts that nursing is the profession for you. But the intention is not to scare potential professionals away—after all, Congleton herself is thriving in the nursing world.

“I’m trying to bridge the gap between nursing school and nursing practice, so that future nurses can hit the ground running,” she summarized.

For more information on Nancy Congleton and her first book, Autopsy of the NP: Dissecting the Nursing Profession Piece by Piece, visit The website features Congleton’s bio, testimonials, and a section called “Unforgettable Nursing Moments” that serves as a summary of Congleton’s career highlights and lowlights, or just anecdotes from 15+ years in the profession. The book can be purchased on Amazon.

About The Author

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