The Daughters, her first book, hits shelves at bookstoresInspired by a Sunday feature she wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Anderson left the paper and spent a year interviewing members of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The resulting book "The Daughters: An Unconventional Look at America's Fan Club - The D.A.R." was published in 1974.
The debut work was well-received by critics. "Miss Anderson puts the D.A.R. into perspective, and she does so with considerable grace and style," Kendall wrote in the New York Times Book Review. "It's clear from the tone of her book that she revised some of her own preconceptions in the process of writing it, cheerfully relinquishing some handy and amusing stereotypes that a lesser reporter might have preserved to the end."
Unfortunately, it didn't sell so well. Anderson only made $2,500 - the amount of the advance.
"Nurse" is published and is soon a bestsellerAnderson's no-nonsense account of eight weeks in the life of a Philadelphia nurse shattered the public perception of the women in white. That's exactly what the author wanted, having been dismayed at the caricatures of nurses that abounded at the time.
Instead she showed their hard realities and the critical role nurses play in health-care, including the uncelebrated decisions left to these flawed heroes.
The book wasn't an all around win. Unlike "The Daughters," her second novel received only mixed reviews.
"The author aimed to portray the image of a nurse who is not the stereotypical Florence Nightingale or Cherry Ames. What she succeeded in doing was to give us today's stereotype of a nurse. For whom this book is intended, I do not know. The young may react with fear, hesitation or disillusionment; the not-so-young may react with cynicism," wrote Rosellen Meighan Garrett, a critic and herself a nurse.
But the book remains a must-read for many nurses entering the profession today, something some critics at the time saw as inevitable.
"This work is of primary importance," critic B.J. Kalisch wrote upon its publication, "because it reveals the vital role a nurse plays in the curative, preventive, and rehabilitative aspects of health care and because it sheds light on a profession which is almost always overshadowed by medicine."
Read more about why "Nurse" mattered in Anderson's LifeStory: https://beta.lifeposts.com/p/milestone/1/.../rial/lifestory/
"Nurse" TV show debutsPrior to the success of Nurse, Anderson struggled financially. That all turned around as sales for Nurse took off, and the TV rights.
From a 1980 People magazine interview: "The book's success surprised no one more than Anderson. When the paperback rights were sold for $137,000, the 41-year-old author cried. 'I realized that my struggling days were beginning to be over,' she says. 'I had been so desperate for money that once I went to a VA hospital that was looking for depressed people to go on a drug program for $20 a week. Some dear friends had the sense to talk me out of that.'"
The Nurse television show debuted on CBSin 1981, starring Michael Learned and Robert Reed. It eventually won an Emmy for Learned, who played the starring role of Mary Benjamin.
Here you can watch CBS' promo for the show.
Children's HospitalAnderson took another look at the health-care industry with Children's Hospital. Instead of following care providers, Anderson turned her focus to the patients: six children who faced severe pain and death.
The work was inspired by a visit to the hospital she had taken previously, when she heard young patients discussing their ailments, their fears and their acceptance of their mortality.
She chose six children, five of them between the ages of six and and 15 and the sixth and premature infant. And told their stories of battling pain, treatment, isolation and fear. The story of the 15-year-old, Mark, who suffered from cystic fibrosis, was nearly universally agreed upon to be the most moving of the colleciton.
"Anderson takes us through the last weeks of heroic medical measures (the toll not just on Mark, but his family, doctors, and nurses) and recounts the brave attempts of a boy, then suffocating to death, to comfort his family: '"I'm sorry, Mom. I can't fight it any more. I want to die. . . I'm not afraid," he gasped.' The other stories are somewhat less affecting, in part because Anderson skips quickly from one child to another in the chronological narrative. Nonetheless, readers will come away with a deep respect for the matter-of-fact courage of all six children."
Though it made money, the book's financial success paled in comparison to that of "Nurse" - but Anderson called it the "most gratifying material I ever worked on in my life.
Untitled manuscript on hospice nursingAt the time of her death, Anderson was reportedly close to finishing her third book examining and humanizing the health care industry, an untitled work on hospice nursing.
The book was "almost done" when she died of lung cancer, following her own final stint as a patient in a hospice facility, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.