Dri's Reviews > Weekends at Bellevue: Nine Years on the Night Shift at the Psych E.R.

Weekends at Bellevue by Julie Holland
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Jan 13, 10

bookshelves: psychology-sociology, memoir
Read in January, 2010

Dr.Julie Holland worked in the busiest psych ER in New York for 9 years. She chronicled her patient cases and specifically how her work impacted her transformation and growth as a person. I heard Dr.Holland is a huge fan of TV medical dramas like "ER" when she was interviewed by NPR, and I felt her book was constructed very much like a medical drama. Except, instead of dealing with medical emergencies, she's dealing with the absolute dregs of society-the mentally ill tortured souls of New York. In fact, she humourously opened the book with one case where a man ran out naked through Times Square during one of his manic episodes. Of course she later explained naked men running through Time Square by itself is not all that atypical.

I was actually quite surprised by how much skills I picked up from her. She gave detailed accounts of the patients at Bellevue and how they were psychiatrically stabilized, often describing particular medications she would use. She also gave little tips and clues, for instance how to tell if someone is on true cocaine withdrawal, etc. that I found useful and applicable for my profession. I dog-eared pages that I learned from and was surprised to find many pages dog-eared by the time I finished reading.

I only gave the book 3 stars (3.5 stars would be more appropriate) mainly b/c I had a really difficult time relating to her as a person. I can't recall the last book I've read where I actually was not sympathetic to the main character. Most authors would paint themselves in the best of light, or at least explain their weakness in a way that evokes the reader's empathy, but Holland is almost too honest--but not in a good way. For instance, she described one of her clerkship year as the year where she bedded multiple surgical residents and attendings, and boastfully added that she had a "steamy affair" with a married anesthesiologist?(can't remember the guy's specialty). Most people would not describe their extra-marital affairs as steamy, some remorse or acknowledgement of guilt usually accompanies admissions of affairs, but not Holland. This is also placed in context of her other seemingly heartless treatments/comments of patients (one time she described a patient's suicidal attempt by jumping out of a window as like a cartoon character slipping out through the window without breaking glass). At times she reminds me of what Jennifer Aniston once said of Brad Pitt, "I think he's missing a sensitivity chip." Holland seems to be missing the same chip, which is ironic for someone in this field.

Overall, a good read and especially interesting if you're in mental health care.
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