Weekends at Bellevue by Julie Holland, M.D. was my first book of the New Year. Joe bought it for me as a Christmas present. He had heard her discussing psychopharmacology on NPR and promoting this book- which is a memoir about her years working in the Bellevue CPEP. I had heard of the book in passing, but didn't look into it because it was still out in hardcover, and I very rarely buy hardcover books. Needless to say, I was BEYOND excited when I unwrapped it! This very well may be one of the absolute best memoirs I have ever read.
For those of you who are unaware, CPEP is the emergency psychiatric unit at a hospital. CPEP stands for Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program. These units typically have a multitude of levels and beds to which admitted patients can go. CPEP is also known for long hours in the triage and being sent away (CPEP doesn't have near as many beds as necessary in most cases). Our agency often deals with CPEP and when we take a resident there it is a crap-shoot... will CPEP admit them for observation?.. will they send us back with a slap on the wrist, telling us to deal with it?... will they tell us our resident is too debilitated and that no hospitals will take them so we have to 'figure it out'? At CPEP, you never know what you are going to get. And that goes for both ends- those bringing the patients, and those seeing the patients.
This memoir follows 9 years of Julie Holland's life as the attending at CPEP on the weekends at Bellevue in New York. Bellevue hospital is a well known name, and was once an asylum. Because of this, they see a lot of patients- more than the typical CPEP. Also, being in the city, CPEP sees more patients in general (think of the homeless- some just looking for a warm bed, and some on the street because they do have a mental illness). Julie is a head strong doctor and over the 9 years at Bellevue, we see her grow as a woman and as an attending psychiatrist. This memoir gives the reader a bit of everything- we get a peek into the behind the scenes drama, read about some of the crazier of her patients, view her personal life, remember what it was like in New York City on 9/11, and see the general insanity that surrounds the CPEP... all with a good dash of humor.
If you like memoirs, this is one of the very best. It isn't all about Julie, which is what I think makes a good memoir. She is able to not only bring us into her life, but also shed light on the overall theme of helping others and learning about yourself. This is also a great read if you have any type of tie to psychiatry- whether you are knee deep in the field everyday or you have just been brushed by the wind. It is very interesting and even if you know NOTHING about psychiatry, it is easy to follow. She wrote it with the intention to allow any reader the opportunity to learn something about the field. A small glossary of terms and abbreviations in the back is also very helpful for those who aren't in the field of psychiatry. (Trust me, our field in FILLED with weird abbreviations and terms and medications).
I hope that those in participating in Melissa's Memorable Memoir Challenge will think of this book when picking out their memoirs!
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write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow